I really hated the ‘maybe’ button on Facebook invites, and I was so glad when they replaced it with ‘interested’. It’s a much more honest button, for one – about half of the people I knew who used it just wanted to keep up with the event, but I’d say a conservative half of folks used it to avoid being rude and just saying no.
But why is saying no considered rude? Why is being unable to attend a graduation party for someone you’ve only met once something you can’t own up to? It’s worse when it’s a good friend since, theoretically, you should be able to trust your close friends enough to speak up. “Sorry, I already have plans. Congrats, though!” – that’s all it should take.
Ghosting is also a huge problem that’s made way easier with social media. It used to be that if you wanted to break things off with someone, a conversation was involved, or at least a note or a phone call. It took a pretty big jerkwad to let you swing when you had mutual friends who knew you’d broken up before you did, and it was a quick way to tear a group asunder. With social media, that barrier is all but gone. It’s a lot easier to control what people know with the internet, and it’s a lot easier to simply disappear when the majority of your contact is over a computer. You don’t have to own up to any of your behavior, you simply click ‘delete’ on their emails or delete your online dating account.
Don’t get me wrong – there’s a lot to be said for setting boundaries and doing things that are healthy for you on social media. You’re not required to keep in touch with your old high-school buddy who always has a racist comment at the ready, or people who repeatedly harass you – they are the reason that handy ‘block’ setting exists, and you should use it any time you feel you need to. Setting boundaries for yourself is definitely a better idea than pretending to be nice to people just for the sake of… what? General politeness? Why do we feel obligated to be nice to people on social media who aren’t returning the favor?
That being said, there’s a big difference between standing up for yourself and being a virtual bully. You can definitely create your own space on your corner of social media, but be upfront about it. “Hey guys, this is my space and I just want to vent in it for a while – not really looking for a debate here.” If you just post a controversial article and start yelling at anyone who disagrees with you, you’re a jerk. If your friends and followers read that comment and still try to force it into a debate anyway, they’re the jerks and you can respond as you see fit.
But we need to learn how to interact with people on social media like we do in the real world. If you wouldn’t say that comment to the person’s face, don’t say it on social media. Remember that you may have to own up to it in person, and if that thought scares you it should be a good barometer of its appropriateness online.
We need to learn how to be grown-ups who use the internet smartly instead of using it to make passive-aggressive swipes at people who, at the end of the day, we really don’t feel that strongly about. Let go, live and let live, and don’t risk potentially ruining someone’s day over something you could have easily walked away from.
Comment: Are you guilty of any of these social-media sins? Why do you do it?