Social Media will feature in our Term 2 discussions about Noticing, but is always a consistent cause of concern in schools. Often what occurs on social media is brought to the attention of schools the next day, and we are asked at times to investigate (sometimes challenging due to the anonymous nature of many sites) or help repair relationships.
While there are many benefits to social media – some of which are covered in this previous Hive article – there are also plenty of pitfalls and the psychological distance of sitting in front of a screen instead of directly addressing another person (where you are likely to see their reaction) mean that we occasionally communicate without our usual sensitivity. Sometimes people even choose to be actively cruel in this format.
However, a quick glance at the Twitter account of a politician or social commentator will show that these kinds of issues are not limited to the school setting, and that understanding what to do if you see something on social media that makes you uncomfortable is something you may use throughout your life.
If this situation is minor and from someone you know and generally trust, it may be resolvable by a quick chat with the person. Perhaps they did not intend for the comment to be taken that way. But if you encounter some really toxic behaviours, it is best to take action.
Firstly, don’t engage. Engaging with negativity and cruelty only tends to add to it. Never respond with anger as it only meets more. Instead, perhaps take a deep breath and take some time to consider what a more mature response could be. This is challenging even for adults!
If the ill-will is directed at you – such as a nasty comment on a photo or an attack across a messaging service, I would suggest blocking or removing the user from your friends list to begin with. Anyone who would speak to you in this way is not someone you should be connected to. Depending on the kind of attack, you may also like to report the user to the host site (i.e. Facebook, Instagram etc) who may also choose to take action. Reporting a user does take time, so it is very important to ensure they can no longer contact you in the meantime.
If what you see is directed at someone else, you may also choose to report the user. But you could also show support the person being attacked or ridiculed with a gentle, positive comment. You might try using the term “dislike” to show you don’t agree with the statement being made. You might also gently defend them, suggesting that the outfit IS fabulous, the dog VERY cute or the attempt to ride a snowboard DEFINITELY cool. Sometimes all it takes is one brave person to put someone in their place. And a gentle comment tends to be non-confrontational and does not attract negativity towards you. It simply lets them know their attitude is neither shared, nor acceptable in your friendship group.
Social media is a place where we need to show kindness – remember that behind each screen and each account there is a real person. It is also a place that we need to remember is PUBLIC. And often hurtful comments end up reflecting more poorly on the giver than the receiver.