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Reexamining Social Media Etiquette

Designed by Keara Barron

Designed by Keara Barron

by Keara Barron, Staff Writer

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In the last decade, social media has seen an explosive growth. Businesses use these social networking sites for marketing strategies while celebrities reach out to their fans in a deceptively personal manner. Others stay in touch with friends and family, or use their platform to express thoughts and opinions. Regardless of the numerous purposes of social media, a pattern of negative behavior has revealed itself as users seemingly forget about etiquette and appropriate ways of conducting themselves.

Though many people online still reflect good social media etiquette, it is important to address this issue as long as it persists. When posting on any social media account–whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat etc.–users should remember to exercise careful responsibility and treat others as they would want to be treated. Otherwise, there could be repercussions to inconsiderate or careless actions, such as causing someone else pain or, more personally, facing rejection for a job position. When users have respect and responsibility, social media becomes more enjoyable to engage in and has an overall better atmosphere.

Everyone on social media should exercise responsibility. Coupled with good judgement, this can prevent regret and pain later on. Think before you post because employers and college admissions often look at your social media accounts. Don’t post during an extremely emotional time. Ask questions like, “Would this hurt my reputation?” or “Would I mind if my grandma saw this? Would it be bad if this post appeared in the news?”

Online responsibility is also imperative because internet posts have the power to influence and impact others. The larger the platform, the more responsibility is needed. For example, Youtuber Logan Paul has nearly 16 million subscribers, and a large portion of his viewers may not even be adults. Paul showed a major lapse in judgement when he videoed a suicide victim in Japan’s suicide forest. Not only was this unsympathetic and insensitive to the victim, the victim’s privacy, family and friends, but now millions of people have witnessed a traumatizing scene that has no place on the internet or even an SD card. Those suffering mental illness and those affected by suicide have now been impacted in a negative way. This situation goes to show that we can have a larger influence than we might originally expect, so online responsibility cannot be regarded with flippancy.

Many parents teach their children what is often referred to as the golden rule: treat others the way you want to be treated. People should keep this “rule” in mind in whenever they interact with others, including on social media. In order to exemplify respect and consideration for others, one must first have the intention of doing so. Before posting, people need to ask themselves if their content is offensive or not, and if it is, does it matter. Of course, many people are sensitive and will inevitably take offense to certain posts. There is no way to please everyone, but at some point, an inflammatory post can become criminal. For example, racist comments, harassment, blatant threats and intimidation directed toward a particular group or individual is considered a hate crime.

Another way to show consideration is to respect others’ opinions even if you disagree with them. There have been many instances in which someone will demand people to unfollow him if they think in a certain way or support a named group, such as a particular political party. However, being exposed to many different viewpoints and positions prevents one from becoming too narrow-minded. Furthermore, with the enormous volume of people using social media, it is impossible to avoid differences in opinions. Throughout life, there will be many encounters of opposing stances and beliefs, so it’s important to respect them in order to not be in a constant state of irritation and disrespect. Respecting others’ views is not the same as adopting them. So instead of condemning someone who doesn’t think similarly to you, embrace it and don’t angrily tell them to unfollow you.

There can be reasonable exceptions, however. Sometimes people will adopt racist, homophobic or other extreme mindsets in this likeness, and this prompts the demand for people to unfollow someone. If this is the case, it’s better avoid these users’ accounts as much as possible. This does not warrant hateful behavior, though.

There have also been cases of public shaming and retaliation on social media. For instance, videos of people cruelly abusing small dogs have surfaced on Twitter. Though this behavior is unjustified and inexcusable, there is no need for people to post the addresses of the abuser’s school or hometown in order to exact revenge. At the same time, there is nothing wrong in calling them out for inappropriate actions, just as there is nothing wrong on calling someone out on any other post that has stepped out of line. Still, when doing this, one should speak the truth in love, meaning do not confront someone in a hateful manner. You can be stern and firm without spreading unnecessary hate. People should remember that we are all humans and we all make mistakes, though some mistakes may be larger than others. Sometimes we are not meant to be the moral judge of someone on the internet that we do not know.

Yes, social media is a place to express thoughts, share moments and exercise freedom of speech. Not everyone wants or has to be politically correct here, either. However, just because we have the ability to say something–or even to harass, bully, shame or post hateful comments–doesn’t mean we should.

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