When we share our beliefs and our politics on social media, many of us are trying to change hearts and minds. But the system is stacked against us: Facebook and Instagram’s algorithms mostly show us topics we’re already interested in, and our posts only reach our own echo chambers. When we do run into someone with a different view, we drive each other insane with comments section flame wars. Here are some guidelines for better content sharing to engage with the people who need to hear it, and hopefully, to make the social media universe a better place while you’re at it.
- Do your research. We are all responsible for stopping fake news and false alarms. Before hitting share, ask yourself: Do I know this topic from multiple perspectives? What are my reasons to trust the source?
- Share sparingly. Our news feeds are already full of opinions that enrage or excite us. Not only does this barrage take a toll on our mental health, but the social media providers don’t show your network every post if you share too often. Don’t spread anxiety by shouting about every crisis: save the passion for the few issues which are most important to you. Post no more than once every 2-3 days.
- Make it personal. Include a preamble about why you feel so passionately about this issue. Include an ask, a challenge, a call to action. Awareness alone isn’t enough to change the world; what do you want people to join you in doing?
- Actively build bridges. If two friends who don’t know each other get into a disagreement on your post, message them separately. Explain who the other person is, and why you respect them. If you live in the same city, offer to introduce them in person. The well-being of your friends in your digital space is your responsibility. Shut down nasty arguments by being honest about how commenters’ words make you feel, by asking people to take a break from the conversation, or deleting the post if necessary.
- Do unto others. If someone else’s post means something to you, let the person know! Sharing issues that are close to your heart on social media is vulnerable; having that vulnerability validated is very affirming. Be constructive: suggest solutions to the issue your friend is passionate or upset about, and offer to work with them on it.
- Get outside your bubble. Sometimes, it seems like everyone is suddenly talking about a ‘hot’ issue. They aren’t: the social media platforms are simply serving you more of what you’ve already clicked on. On Facebook, get around this by only viewing your news feed in ‘most recent’ mode. On the app, press the 3 bars, choose ‘view more’ and click ‘most recent’. Engage with content from people you don’t normally talk to, even if you haven’t spoken to them since high school. If you’re not willing to interact with them, why follow them?Have bringing about social change; people respond better to a light touch and genuine emotion. Always remember that behind every online interaction, there is a real person.
Alana Westwood is a freelance writer and policy analyst from Canada. She has written for major Canadian venues about the intersection of policy, the environment, and social change.
Don Moman is a freelance writer and a front-lines care provider for at-risk youth. He is based in Winnipeg, Canada.
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