To Mute or Not to Mute: Social Media During Times of Unrest
There is no question that we are living in a time of great unrest. As I've been scrolling through my newsfeeds over the past several weeks, I've been reminded of a question I'm often asked in interviews, "Is it okay to mute users online?" To this I say, "Yes and no." and here's why.
Yes, it is okay to curate your online experience. I can personally attest to having had social media negatively influence my mental health. In this case, unfollowing or muting can be a healthy choice.
On the other hand, if the reason we are choosing to silence someone online is simply because we don't agree with their opinion, I say no. Social media makes it too easy to only hear and see what we want to, and with the click of a button, we kill necessary conversations. I am in no way encouraging anyone to take to social media to start a debate or post a politically-charged rant, but I am encouraging us all to listen. Listen to each other's opinions, listen to each other's thoughts, and most definitely listen to each other's stories. Allow yourself to hear what others have to say, and then, decide to either be changed or stand even more grounded in your opinion than before.
Here are 3 things I would encourage you to do rather than giving up on people or muting others on social media based on political discontent:
Engage in Thoughtful Dialogue - When someone makes a statement online that doesn't sit well with you, engage in a thoughtful dialogue rather than a hurtful one. Using a respectful tone, try asking clarifying questions to get to the root of their position. Be sure to acknowledge the validity of the other person's feelings even if it's hard to validate their position. Dig in rather than dismiss.
Think Critically - Technology makes accessing information easy, but if we aren't careful, it can also cause the spread of misinformation. So much of what we see online can come from unverified resources, so be sure to think critically and dig deeper. We have every resource at our fingertips, but we have to want to find the unfiltered truth.
Be Respectful - It's easy to misinterpret the way something is said online. There are a million different ways the same phrase can be said ranging from sounding incredibly annoyed and dismissive to sounding extremely kind and accepting. It may take extra time, but it is so important to use intention when choosing the words we say online, especially when screenshots and internet archives make our words hard to take back. As wise Benjamin Franklin once said, "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar."