Can We Have Healthy Conversations Online?

With proper use, social media has the potential to boost one’s self-esteem, sense of belonging, and acceptance among peers. However, the internet isn’t always a positive place due to haters, trolls, misinformation, general toxicity, and the occasional out-of-control stan.

Just like me, you probably feel the need to take action. The good news is that you can have fruitful dialogues and build supportive communities online, even with those who disagree with you. Start with these seven suggestions and then take our SCE-powered quiz to share your knowledge and make the internet a better place for everyone. So, let’s get to it!

1. Choose your Followers With Care.

Being selective about the accounts you engage with is the first and easiest step in building a welcoming online community. Look for things that make you joyful, such as films of adorable animals, interviews with your favourite celebrities, or profiles of courageous activists. Make your timeline more upbeat by sharing posts with uplifting messages, and don’t feel bad about blocking people whose postings you find annoying or toxic, even if you like them in person.

2. Recognize When it’s Time to Withdraw.

To maintain a positive image on your timeline, unfollowing isn’t the only solution. If you receive a critical comment or notice one on someone else’s post, you don’t always have to clap back. It’s advisable to silence the conversation and keep reading if responding will only make things worse. That old adage about not saying anything at all if you don’t have anything nice to say holds true. And if the other person doesn’t have anything nice to say, you don’t have to listen to them.

3: “Drop into their DMs”

If you want to respond to a nasty post or comment, keep in mind that doing so may inflame the situation by inviting further participants and comments. Write them a private message explaining how their offensive comment affected you. Keep things civil, not just for their benefit but also for your own, as a screenshot of your direct message could end up on a public forum. Send them an article you think might help correct the misinformation being shared. To avoid coming out as attacking the other person right off the bat, it’s best to have this chat in a more intimate situation.

4. Use Comedy to Break the Ice.

Even though it’s easier said than done, sometimes the only way to overcome a negative outlook is to laugh it off. To lessen the tension in a tense situation, it can help to respond with humour. Even if you aren’t quite ready to clap back like Chrissy Teigen just yet, learning to take oneself less seriously online can be a major stress reliever.

5. Be Nice and they’ll Die of Your Goodness.

When you see a post that goes against your beliefs, it might be difficult to maintain an open mind. You may be quick to pass judgement on this person, yet a snide remark of your own might be just as damaging to their feelings. Be understanding and patient if you choose to reply to their message. Keep in mind that there’s an actual person on the other end of the line; if you wouldn’t say it to their face, then it’s probably not appropriate to say it online.

6. And Relax For a While.

If you find that the comments you read online are negatively impacting your mood, it may be time for a “social media cleanse.” Social media may be a terrific place to express yourself and develop a supportive group. If you feel like you need a serious detox, try restricting your app usage to twice a day, or even better, deleting them from your phone for a week. When you take a break from scrolling, you might be amazed at how much you get done and how much better you feel.

7. Recognize the Signs of Hateful Speech and Know When to Report it or Block it.

When it comes to internet harassment, unpleasant remarks are usually only a little annoyance, but it may be terrifying when it becomes severe. It’s important to use the report option if you come across a message that seems threatening or inappropriate.

Twitter and Facebook, two of the largest social media sites, have both been called out for what they call “hate speech,” which is defined as “attacks on people based on their perceived race, colour, religion, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.”