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Effective Social Media Strategies In Times Of Controversy

posted Mar 6, 2016, 3:25 AM by Kanika G   [ updated Mar 6, 2016, 7:01 AM ]

In times of controversy, social media gets flooded with emotionally charged posts. Many of these may be from family and friends we love, but they can sound quite upsetting if we do not agree with them. So how does one deal with social media in such times?

The easiest thing to do, is to avoid social media, till the storm has passed.

But, if like me, your work requires you to use social media extensively, then this is not really an option.

In times of controversy close friends and family may have strong opinions that one strongly disagrees with. Sometimes they will post their opinions in upsetting language, or just the fact that someone you love or hold in high esteem, can think so differently from you, can be upsetting. In the heat of the moment you may be tempted to post a scathing response, that may escalate in to a fight. It is important, in such occasions, to remember that close friends and family are loyal for a lifetime and controversies last a few months. Is it really worth putting a dent in a close relationship, over a difference in opinion? It is especially important, not to launch a personal attack, that may ruin a long term relationship.

So what can you do if you need to use social media regularly and provocative posts from friends and family annoy you? Facebook allows you to reduce the number of posts you see from a particular person without un-friending them or blocking all posts. If you choose this option a couple of times, their algorithm is fairly decent at filtering out posts of similar nature from that person. That way you don't get angry and ruin a couple of hours of your life. You also have saved that relationship from any damage that you will regret once the controversy has passed.

If you still consider it necessary to respond to friends and family, to let them know how you feel, wait till your rage has passed, and preferably respond privately to them calmly telling them how you feel and why and then try to let it go irrespective of their response.

Now what about public posts you feel the necessity to engage in?

If they are posts you agree with there is no harm in leaving a comment of support.

If they are ones you strongly disagree with refrain from commenting. Here is why:

  1. When you comment on a post you make it more popular, because it now reaches the news feed of a significant fraction of your friends. When you make a scathing comment, you provoke a response, further increasing the popularity of the post.
  2. The most effective way to deal with a post you disagree with or despise, is, not to respond to it. The less people respond to a post on social media, the more quickly it dies. Remember that every time you respond to a post, you give that point of view free publicity. People are more likely to see the original post, than they are, your comment criticizing it, which is likely to be lost among many others.
  3. If you feel it important to make yourself heard, make a separate post. If you want someone in particular to take note of your post because it is in response to something they posted, tag them in your own post, but do not respond to their post unless you want to give it a wider audience.

And remember that if you make a public post, everyone, and I mean everyone, can read it including current and future employers, family members, teachers and friends. So keep that in mind, when you draft your post. To reach most people you need to be provocative, and use strong and possibly emotional language, but you also need to remember that those who know and love you will read these posts and probably judge you by them.

Also when you post publicly, be prepared for all kinds of criticism and the time wasted on heart ache and self doubt that will come from reading the responses. Even if you choose to be civil and balanced in your language and opinion, do not expect the responses to be the same.

You can of course, choose not to read the responses, but that is very hard once you have engaged. It is possible to rise above rude and crude responses with a standard “Thank you for reading and sharing your point of view.” This type of response prevents an escalation. If someone has responded in a rude and crude way, it is extremely unlikely you are ever going to convince them of your point of view, so further engagement is only a waste of your time and will leave you with negative emotions.

Finally, even when you engage in healthy debate, remember that logical arguments cannot be used to convince someone who has different set of beliefs or axioms, so there is no point in continuing once you have established this.