The internet is an unforgiving place. We all remember the notorious accidental tweet of an aptly-named politician and how quickly his career crumbled because of it. What you may have meant as a harmless joke could make the rest of the internet take up arms!  You can sail smoothly on social media’s tricky waters, but only if you follow these four simple tips to protect yourself from losing your job, your friends, or just your temper.

Make Sure It’s Worth It

Will what you say damage the image of your employer? Personally offend an opinionated family member? Will you have to defend your comment if challenged? A seemingly harmless joke about someone’s pyramid scheme can start a firestorm faster than you can refresh your newsfeed. If you’re itching to post a funny or poignant comment but unsure how it will go over, first privately send it to a friend who you know will appreciate it.

Do say: Anything positive, encouraging, or reasonable.

Don’t say: FIRST DAY ON THE JOB WOW THIS IS THE WORST PLACE EVER

or ALIENS SPEAK TO ME IN BEEPS AND CLICKS LONG LIVE THE LIZARD PEOPLE

or OMG I LITERALLY HATE MY FAMILY

Deleting vs. Damage Control

If you’ve posted something that causes a ruckus and you don’t want to deal with damage control, there’s no shame in deleting it. You can follow up with a “Sorry for my post earlier — the world is full of enough negativity, and I don’t want to add to it!”

If you must get involved, don’t be too hasty. Proofread your responses carefully, and look up words if you’re not sure how to use them correctly. Nothing destroys your credibility on the internet like an improper use of “too,” “to,” and “two.” Use thoughtful language that acknowledges the other party’s position, and keep in mind that these kinds of conversation can get really emotional really fast. Keeping your cool will help foster a calm, intellectual environment.

Do say: I appreciate where you’re coming from, but keep in mind we have different backgrounds, which greatly affects how we interpret these data’s implications.

Don’t say:  SO WAT YOUR SAYING IS TAHT U DONT CARE ABOUT ANY1 BUT URSELF?

Don’t Assume Bad Intentions

If your cousin Jessica’s post feels like it’s secretly directed at you, don’t take the bait. Chances are it’s not about you at all. Assuming malicious intent doesn’t do anyone any good. If someone’s comment comes across as an attack, take the high road, assume the best, and refrain from name calling. Throwing in a helpful emoticon here and there will ensure that your tone is properly communicated.

Do say: I’m sorry that my comment upset you, but please know that I had no intention of it coming across that way 🙂

Don’t say: BIGOT BIGOT BIGOT BIGOT BIGOT BIGOT BIGOT

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Know When to Walk Away

Few of us have the emotional constitution to survive too many heated back-and-forths, so remember that you can walk away at any time. It’s not worth it to burn bridges, even over the internet, so keep it classy when you sign off.

Do say: It was really nice discussing this with you, but unfortunately I have other things I need to get done today. If you’d like to continue this conversation in person sometime, feel free to reach out to me.

Don’t say: UNFRIENDING, BYE FELICIA

The next time you feel the heat of indignant internet rage, remember these tips. Most of us aren’t famous enough to end up as front page news because of our blunders, but it’s better to be safe than sorry — the wild world of the internet is always full of surprises!

 

By Whitney Grindberg