After being called a fascist twice in the space of two weeks (I’m starting to wonder if it’s a hidden trait of mine that I didn’t realise I had), I remembered how tricky it can be to share opinions online. Especially if your opinion is one that isn’t particularly fascist. People really fucking hate liberals, apparently. Anyway, in a time where everyone and their dog can not only have an opinion, but also post it to a mass audience too, I thought I’d share a little guide on how to effectively share your opinion online and how to accept any criticism you might encounter.
You don’t have to say it online:
Since there’s so much going on in the world that is worthy of comment right now, it’s easy to feel like you have to use your social media platforms to share your opinion (even if you don’t want to). With endless calls to ‘speak out’ in support of a particular cause, you can find yourself entering into a battle that you’d have rather kept confined to your own personal life. Whilst I wouldn’t advocate anybody staying completely quiet in these trying and worrying times, there are other ways to contribute without plastering your thoughts across social media. If you feel worried about garnering criticism, or you’re not sure how to articulate your thoughts on an issue, or you’d rather keep them private, that’s all okay. There are plenty of other things you can get involved with. You do you.
Take time to reflect on your thoughts:
My favourite time to write is when I’m emotional about an issue. Thoughts and feelings seem to just pour out of me because they’re being generated from a surge of emotion that translates into an abundance of creative motivation. However, I also know that writing emotionally isn’t always the best thing to do, particularly where anger is concerned (and goodness knows there’s a lot of that about at the moment). So, whilst getting fired up and channeling that passion into a blog or social media post is generally positive, it can sometimes pay to be a bit reflective about what you’re saying so that you don’t feel regret later.
Keep the moral high ground:
When you’re being called a fascist or a frigid feminist, it can be pretty hard to retain any sense of moral high ground because all you want to do hit the troll with as many awful words as you can muster. However, I’ve found that nothing annoys trolls more than somebody who won’t rise to the bait. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with poking fun or getting sweary but, if you can manage to avoid being abusive, you’re onto a winner before you’ve even started. Don’t stoop to their level; stay civil and you’re much more likely to make your voice heard (or alternatively be left alone, bonus) and show that you’re a reasonable person with opinions that can be backed up. If a person isn’t willing to engage in the same way, they’re not worth your time.
Be prepared to listen:
Sharing opinions isn’t just about putting your voice out there and expecting everybody to listen dotingly. You have to be prepared to reciprocate and consider the other side of the story if you want a meaningful exchange. A huge part of sharing your thoughts is usually to find like-minded people and/or convince those who don’t feel the same that you have a point. Your point will be much better made if you take the time to listen to what others have to say. I managed to have a really pleasant debate with somebody who I initially thought was a troll but, thanks to following the above steps first, I realised that he was just another rational person who simply had a different opinion to mine. However, please note that this step absolutely does not apply to anybody who’s is aggressive, abusive, or solely wants to argue.
Take a break:
It can be pretty tiring fending off criticism or trying to make an incredibly articulate point about world politics in just one-hundred and forty characters. If you’ve had your nose stuck in your phone for hours or if you’re feeling angry or anxious about the exchanges you’re involved in, step away. It’s okay, even advisable, to take a break and forget that the world of social media exists for a little while. The beauty of social media is that you can simply share your opinion and then decline to engage in anything further from that point if that’s how you want to play it – you’re not obliged to reply to every person who tweets you!
Use the safeguarding tools:
It goes without saying but, if you’ve experienced something that is hurtful, offensive, or inappropriate, use the tools available to you to combat it. Report offensive behaviour, block aggressors, group together with other online users who have got your back to let them know that you’re feeling unhappy or unsafe. Although the sharing of opinions is often fraught with emotion and passion which can sometimes spill over, at the end of the day there is no excuse for causing harassment or distress to others. Keep yourself safe.
All of these are common sense, I know. However, it’s easy to get drawn in during the heat of the moment and this can lead to upset and regret so take a breath first!
Have you ever received criticism online? How did you deal with it? Do you have any tips on sharing your opinion online?
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