The internet is angry. It feels like everywhere you turn online, people are ready to dish you their sometimes horrendously uninformed opinions about anything and everything. Trump, Hillary, Gilmore Girls, dank memes... The list goes on and on. No matter the topic of conversation, everyone’s fighting.
In a world of attention grabbing headlines, listicles (yes I am aware this is one of those) and a severe lack of fact checking, online discussion has deteriorated into mad yang slinging hate fests. Remember, just because you can’t see someone face to face doesn’t mean it’s okay to call them a foolish sucka.
So here’s what you can actually do about it:
1: Get involved in respectful debates
Lead by example. Next time you scroll by a post that really makes you furious on Facebook, just leave a nice, respectful, comment about why your opinion differs and also conveying that it’s a nice time to have a nicer time online.You never know, maybe the person trolling in the first place might be shamed into taking a long hard look at themselves.
If you think whoever wrote the terrible thing in the first place just won’t listen to reason, remember you can always hide their posts 😉
2: Try to understand the other person’s perspective
People generally don’t post things on the internet for no reason, think about what’s prompted them to post what they’ve said. Every now and again on the FYA Facebook page we get someone who DMs us some truly awful stuff. We try to pop ourselves in their shoes.
If someone’s saying we should end our own lives, it’s pretty safe to assume that it’s coming from an unhappy person who might need a helping hand, rather than cop online abuse. Remember that people aren’t really evil, they just read different news and hang out with different people to you.
3: Make a video to get your opinion heard
In the digital age of 2016, there’s no better way to get your opinion to stand out in a crowd than making a video.
We recently partnered with YouTube for an event series called “Share Some Good.” The event brought together young Aussies from all over the country to specifically talk about how to combat hate speech online, so yeah, pretty relevant subject matter to this article I’d say. I went to one of the events in Sydney a few weeks back and had a bunch of great discussions around why people are so angry online and how to reach as many people as possible with messages of tolerance and respect.
We discovered a huge part of the answer was creating and sharing moving and personal stories of acceptance. Turns out, people empathise so much more with a story or opinion that’s different to theirs if someone shares a genuine, personal story about it (you can listen to this podcast about it if you’re interested in knowing more about the phenomenon). If you’re thinking you might like to give it a crack, you can download the creator guide here.
4: Write an article
And if you don’t like being in front of the camera, or don’t like the idea of spending your time editing a video, writing an article is also a pretty shibby way to get the word out. But where would you post said article you may ask? What a valid and important question! If you’ve written something you’re super proud of and need to get it in front of as many eye balls as possible, hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org with a pitch for your story and we might be able to post it on our site.
5: Read news from different sources
This is probably the most important point! The Facebook bubble is very real. You could spend hours reading up on what it does, and how it changes the political landscape, but long story short: it makes sure you almost always see posts from people who are likely to have views similar to yours. And that tends to extend to the political landscape. Which is a scary concept for many.
How does one get out of the bubble? As much as you probably won’t like the idea, you could like a bunch of Facebook pages you wouldn’t normally follow. You’ll immediately notice a pretty big shift in the type of content you’ll be exposed to online.
Or, hey, just keep those old primary school friends on Facebook. The ones you wouldn’t recognise if you actually saw them in real life. As we get older, many of us tend to gravitate towards people who are like us and have views similar to ours. So keep a bunch of different people around the Facebook feeds and you’ll probably find they share content you disagree with or that makes you feel uncomfortable. And uncomfortable is good! If you’ve paid any attention to points 1 through 4, then you’ll probably start thinking, ‘why am I uncomfortable?’ and ‘how can I articulate my views in a positive and respectful way that acknowledges we’re all humans and deserve some respect while engaging in a bit of friendly debate’? At least, that’s what I’ll be doing.