Fostering Healthy Interactions on Social Media

February 9, 2024
Carly Reinhart and Victoria Lam

Have you ever shared something online that you later regretted? Or had a moment when you wished you could take back a comment you made? You’re not alone - this is a common experience online.

It’s not easy navigating social media, especially when our emotions come into play. Many platforms are designed to test our judgment and impulse control. Unfortunately, what we share online doesn’t ever truly go away and can come back to haunt us down the road.

In this guide, we'll offer tips and strategies to help you handle social media wisely, maintain an online presence that aligns with your values, and foster healthier interactions – even when emotions run high. 

Check-in with yourself

Fostering healthy interactions on social media begins before you publish that post or send that tweet. Here are things to check before you even pick up your phone or open your laptop. 

By taking the time to reflect, you can set the stage for more thoughtful and constructive online interactions.

Also, keep in mind that some kinds of content and posts around social justice issues will always be read as “angry,” no matter how politely and calmly they are written. We think it’s important to both acknowledge that – and to still check in with ourselves before posting. This is for our own benefit, not just for our causes.

Save your drafts

The golden rule of fostering healthy interactions on social media is to hit the pause button before you post. This means saving your posts in drafts when you’re feeling heated, taking a break or a deep breath, and re-reading through your posts with a cooler head. Remember, calmer heads will prevail. 

Once you’ve written that post or tweet, consider using this checklist to make sure it aligns with your intentions. You can even ask a friend you know will be honest with you to help — and have them check for typos, too.

What to do when things go off the rails

Duty Calls

Even with the best foresight and preparation on social media, things often don’t go as planned. Charles’ Rules of Argument is a strategy for dealing with fallout, especially if it’s high in volume.

1. Don’t go looking for an argument.

Thanks to social media, there will always be more arguments headed your way. Your energy isn’t infinite, though. Pick your battles wisely and sparingly.

2. State your position once, speaking to the audience.

Once people make up their minds, it’s hard to sway them. When you make your case, your primary audience consists of the less invested observers.

3. Reply one more time to correct any misunderstandings of your first statement or acknowledge something you didn’t know.

Let some time pass for replies to roll in, then clarify your first statement if needed. If the misunderstanding is on your end, it’s okay and even admirable to admit to your own blind spots. You’re human — you have them. It’s okay; just know what they are and work to make them smaller.

4. IMPORTANT: DO NOT REPLY AGAIN.

Let the storm blow over. Social media is famous for its short attention span. Let the mobs move on to the next target instead of continuing to attract their attention.

5. Spend time doing something fun instead.

Practice self-care by refusing to let trolls and attackers monopolize your attention. Mix screen-free activities, like eating delicious food, spending time with friends, and pursuing your hobbies with screen-related activities like video games and rewatching your favorite TV shows.

Wrapping up

We understand that it isn’t always easy to keep your emotions in check when it comes to social media, especially when you’re facing online harassment. There are certainly times when a snarky reply is warranted or when you feel the need to stand up for what's right. 

However, do your best to remember that practicing restraint and adhering to respectful communication can help maintain a healthier online environment, even in the face of negativity and attacks.

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