My rules for social media (you can adapt your own always) – These I apply in real life too:
I still get this wrong. There’s no set rules that you have to follow – you make up your own. However my life improved by avoiding common internet pitfalls.
- Post like no one is going to read it – ignore your follower count, the stuff you write is important to you, that’s what is important. It took 12 months for me to get to 150 followers, but checking it constantly just upset me. When I got more followers it actually made me more hesitant to post. I just stopped looking – it’s nice having likes, but don’t get caught up on it.
- Model the behavior you want – You can’t expect people to act in a way you don’t act. (Remember you don’t have to be perfect, but you should always aim to be your best).
- Connect with people with diverse backgrounds, but not outside core values. You also need to know what your core values are – I have five core values I live by Reciprocal Learning, Ethics, Empathy, Inclusion, Versatility. This exercise can help you work these out: Core Values Exercise
- You can generally trust people with pronouns in bio – You can also always discount people who say “pronouns in bio” as an insult. People who think that respect is something they have authority over aren’t people you should respect.
- Don’t take criticism from people you wouldn’t go to for advice – This takes a long time to learn, it’s vital though if someone is trolling you or is acting in bad faith towards you – their criticism has no value, discard it. Just practice doing this. It gets easier.
- Refute trolls then block – Learned this thanks to the trans community – if you leave a comment without refutation people might think you share these views. Refute obviously wrong stuff, then block them.
- Block liberally (don’t mute) – All muting does is allows people to abuse you or others in your comments rather than actually doing anything productive, you don’t know what harm they are causing without your knowledge.
- Believe victims – There’s a >95% chance they are not lying. If it’s someone you looked up to – challenge why you think that’s as important as acknowledging the harm they may have caused.
- Stop using ableist phrases – Ableism is hurtful, and a lot of the time you won’t realise you are doing it – TRY TO FOLLOW THESE RECOMMENDATIONS – you’ll make mistakes, you get better at not making mistakes with time.
- Be accountable for mistakes – learn how to apologize correctly.
- Be prepared for misunderstandings – quite often people read more than they realise into what other people are saying. I generalise a lot – it’s a problem but I will always clarify if someone corrects me on this.
- Always imagine everyone has Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria – it’s far better to preemptively say “I didn’t mean this to come across as mean/nasty/hurtful” than to leave it.
- Always add alt-text (Twitter, Facebook) – Describe images in a following Tweet/or comment if you do forget.
- Check people’s likes/comments rather than their own feed when assessing. People show who they are more in likes and replies than they do on their “front page”
- Generally don’t use Facebook except for specific things – I use it for a couple of support groups, and to connect with friends/family not on other social media – but nothing else. It’s engineered to make you feel bad.
- Try and learn all about people with less opportunities than you – It’s ok to follow people you look up to, but getting obsessed with material wealth is an unhealthy pursuit that will always make you unhappy, showing empathy and trying to make the lives of those without as many resources better by understanding and helping them is far more life fulfilling.
- Value lived experience – Lived experience is the most useful tool for challenging assumptions you have. If people speak of their experiences – those count as much if not more than any statistical data you may find – Do people lie? Yes. But nowhere near as much as you would like to think.
- Listen – Spend more time reading and understanding rather than talking and judging. If I had fixed ideas on things I had believed due to media/science – I never would have been diagnosed with Autism – I might not be here.
- Retweet/share minority group concerns that you are not a part of without quote tweeting/or commenting – This one is just part of being a good ally – They need your amplification, share their experience without needing to add commentary. If you think it will be more impactful if you do make comment that’s ok.
- Practice radical empathy – This is one of the best ways to start feeling better about the world generally. If you are actively trying to fix it, you know that you’ve done your part. This helped me forgive so many people in my life by learning to look through their eyes.
- Be prepared to be wrong always – Going into an argument headstrong that you are always correct doesn’t allow for growth. It stunts it, any piece of knowledge you have should be up for debate – science has been developing for centuries – it’s been wrong a lot. Be like science – be prepared to be wrong.
- Research first – on stuff people say you might disagree with rather than asking them. (Don’t make minorities constantly do things you can do yourself.)
- Don’t appropriate language – or make sure you are respecting it. Don’t do it generally. Especially African American Vernacular English (AAVE).
- Don’t attack people, attack their views – Saying someone is a garbage human who has erred, doesn’t help change their mind – it isolates them. Shame isn’t a great motivator.
- People who have been harmed by others are allowed to react however they want – As a general rule you don’t get to police the tone of people who experience harm, this is extremely true of minorities that have experienced harm.
- Try not to use GIFs of cultures where the context could be deemed offensive – This is optional but I try not to use non-white people GIFs as a white person. There’s enough out there.
- Share people’s requests for help – (if they specifically request shares etc). If they scam that’s on them, not on you. (I’d rather be a duped fool than a sad cynic.)
- Don’t get into arguments generally – If they seem like they are having a bad day or it’s something you don’t need to do. Arguments on social media with people you do not know personally are generally pointless. If you can’t get your nuanced point across in 280 characters or less on Twitter, just usually let it go.
- Avoid creating false dichotomy questions – this is one I learned later. I came to realise the vast bulk of negative interactions I had with my community came from phrasing questions with an ‘or’. ‘Do you x or are you neurotypical?’. This is a loaded question and can be divisive, and the false dichotomy also primes rejection sensitivity.
- Understand some people will need more patience than others – try to give people the benefit of the doubt. However if they show a pattern of attacking or asking innocent looking questions to you incessantly until you get mad and then QRT to dunk you. This is a person who is acting in bad faith by sealioning.
- Don’t dunk on hateful comments – signal boosting trolls is counterproductive, and often harmful – especially if you are not a part of the community you are ‘defending’. Screenshots are the worst way to do this also – it evades people’s block feature meaning you’ve exposed them to hate.
You’ll make errors but social media is so much better for me understanding the rules of engagement – and defining the things that I want.
I don’t get hung up on time I spend – as long as it’s time well spent. If social media is like this for me – it’s an educational tool, resource, and contributes to knowledge. I share funny stuff, cute stuff, I learn more, I empathize, I filter, I enjoy!
At a certain point I learned this lesson:
I Don’t Know How To Teach You How To Care About Other People