By Mark Bain
I closed my personal Twitter account and took a Facebook break late last year. Intense anger, much of it driven by politics and amplified by media, was so pervasive that I was becoming more pessimistic with every trip online.
I’m back at it now, but with a selective approach to consuming and engaging in media. I dropped some Facebook friends and started ignoring certain types of posts. I strengthened my resolve to avoid cable news channels, and I decided to only follow media that inform or inspire. I typically avoid sites that seem to invite bitter, divisive comments just for the shock value.
My new approach is not about wrapping myself in a warm security blanket of like-minded people who share my world view. Echo chambers are hazardous for individuals and societies. That’s why I make an effort, as much as possible, to gather differing perspectives.
When I engage online, it’s not about my personal brand. I’m not trying to curate my digital persona to appear more likeable or hirable. On the contrary, I am striving to be my authentic self, online and in real life, every day. If I can align my views and expressions, those around me will come to know me as, well, me.
If this resonates with you in some way, then what might it mean for how you consume and use media? If you disagree with a policy, I believe you should still speak up. If you’re angry at a company, you should explain why. If you receive bad service, you should rate it accordingly. If you’re disappointed by a brand, please share your experience for the benefit of the brand and others.
But whatever you do, I hope you will always – always – take a positive approach, keeping a few other principles in mind:
- Choose words carefully. Speech is free, but certain speech can carry a high cost.
- With the right to criticize comes a responsibility to be constructive.
- Snarky, sarcastic comments may be on trend with some, but they often offend others.
- Don’t opine instantly on breaking news, when facts are usually incomplete or incorrect.
- If you choose to get personal, do it with praise, not criticism.
- Don’t become a troll or waste time engaging with one.
- There’s never an excuse for ignorance, given the power and speed of internet search.
Above all, before you post, share, like or comment, please ask yourself:
- Will this prompt those who disagree to reconsider their position?
- Will this help to advance the conversation?
- Will this bring people closer together?
In the 1960s, another period with political and social turbulence, there was a popular phrase: “you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution.”
Today, that phrase might look a bit different: “your media use is either hardening hearts and closing minds, or it’s helping to bring us closer together.”
We all have a choice.
Mark Bain is President of upper 90 consulting, a practice that helps leaders and teams adapt, grow and excel. Previously, he led the worldwide communications teams at two global organizations.