Because I am online a lot, I am now a person who makes and gets a lot of comments! As you can imagine, I’ve had my fair share of negative comments. And I am SURE that I have unintentionally said something snarky or rude or offensive. I like to assume that in general, people are pretty nice, and that they’re not intentionally being mean or trying to hurt another person’s feelings. Unfortunately, there are major exceptions, but we will ignore those for now!
Because almost ALL of us depend on social media to promote ourselves professionally in one way or another, I thought I’d share 5 questions that I ask myself before I post a comment online to help me make sure that I’m putting my best foot forward, and that I’m not unintentionally being a jerk. Ha!
I feel like asking myself these questions helps me to stay professional and kind, without stifling my personality too much!
I’m not saying I verbatim go through each one of these questions every time I comment, but being aware of them and thinking about them now and again has helped protect me from any huge online blowups thus far! So I thought maybe you’d find them helpful too!
Ready? Here are 5 questions I ask myself before I post a comment online …
1. Is this comment encouraging or constructive?
I’m not saying we all just buzz around the Internet flattering one another (though that’s not the worst idea I’ve ever heard), but if the comment is not encouraging, is it at least constructive? My brand is a very positive one, so this is a big one for me to ask myself before I open up my big mouth! Is there a reason to be pointing out what I’m pointing out? Could it possibly hurt the person’s feelings or make them think I’m mocking them? If it isn’t encouraging or positive, is it at least helpful? For example, “I see that this link isn’t working.” Or, “Did you forget to credit this artist?” I for one, sincerely appreciate constructive comments, especially when they are worded with care. So I try to do the same when I have a critique.
2. Will my tone be misinterpreted?
I know I’m totally guilty of leaving a sarcastic comment, assuming everyone will of COURSE get that I’m being sarcastic, when in fact they might TOTALLY not. Need an example? How many misunderstandings or arguments have stemmed from your text messages? See what I’m saying?! A kissy face emoticon at the end of a snarky comment does not mean that the comment is any less snarky. So when I write a comment that hinges on a person knowing me IN PERSON, or an emoticon to “sweeten” it, I try to rephrase the comment altogether.
3. Do I know this person well enough to say what I’m saying?
This one protects me from feeling like I’ve overstepped, and it protects the person I’m leaving the comment for. There is a sense of familiarity that we form online when we follow one another day-to-day, and writing comments back and forth to one another helps us get acquainted! I’ve met real-life friends over conversations started on Instagram. That’s why I often find myself starting to write a comment assuming I know someone better than I do. That’s fine if I’m talking about a TV show or a craft product. But I try to tread with REAL caution when it comes to stuff that MATTERS, like parenting, or feelings or strong opinions. If I want to start a REAL conversation, an email is probably my best bet.
4. Does the critique overshadow the compliment?
For example I might say, “You’re a weirdo! And I love it.” There’s totally a compliment in there, but the blaring declaration of “weirdo” will probably overshadow the compliment that I love that person. So unless I know them fairly well, I probably won’t compliment them with what many could consider an insult. I actually really dislike the word “weirdo” and prefer a word like “nut!” But it’s so hard to know what words will strike a nerve in someone else — which is why this one also falls under #3 — I’m assuming that I know them better than I do!
5. Am I talking about the person like they are not in the room?
I noticed this because people unintentionally do it to me ALL THE TIME. And it’s easy to do if you’re not aware of it! I think that people are under the illusion that if a person has a large online following, that they are no longer “present.” But I assure you, people I know with hundreds of thousands of followers still notice the things people are saying about them. In fact, one time an Instagram account with 300K + followers did not accurately tag one of my pictures. Some people were tagging me on their account and so I said something like, “Oh yeah accounts like this never tag me properly.” Within 5 minutes they had apologized and fixed the problem! I assure you it was not because I was being snippy! Had I asked directly, and not like I was whispering about them behind their back, I’m sure they would have done the same.
I like to imagine that the person’s Instagram feed, blog, or Facebook page is their house. Would I walk into their house and say my comment out loud without directing it to them? If you tag a friend in someone else’s feed, and then make an inside joke, the person is left assuming you are probably laughing at them, even if you are totally not!
So there you have it! How I try to censor myself online! Haha.
I feel so honored and humbled that anyone, let alone lots of someones, read, look at, or listen to anything I have to say online. I hope these questions help you navigate the online world with a little more ease and that if I’ve ever said anything horribly stupid (which is likely), you’ll give me the benefit of the doubt!