Every day when we hang out online we meet people. These online meetings can very well be as important as face-to-face meetings.
When you comment and interact with others you are making a choice. Even when you choose not to say anything you also make a choice or maybe even a statement.
For whatever reason I’ve been stuck in three different discussions going nowhere on social media in the last week. It’s been draining.
I’ve also had another fruitful discussion with a person I’d never met before and we were able to move our discussion forward and be respectful – the difference was like night and day compared to the other debates.
I deleted two of the aggressive threads. I felt that the exchanges were pointless and there was no way we could come to any kind of conclusion.
One of the disputes was in a group about science and research connected to Vetenskap och Folkbildning (VoF). I’ve followed many of the discussions before and I wanted to share an online course I was taking about food. This is a Swedish Facebook group and in Sweden food is a sensitive topic. People are food fundamentalists and extremists and I thought it could be good for people who are interested in science and food to check out this scientific course. The course is called Food As Medicine. Wow, just the title triggered many people to tell me that food is food and medicine is medicine.
If you just think a little bit deeper you may see that what you eat is connected with health, and right now one billion people are ill because they are not getting enough food. This is not a Western world problem, but there are still millions who get all kinds of illnesses because of malnutrition. There are also hundreds of studies taking place right now that are looking at food as medicine.
The strong voices in the group accused me of all kinds of things in the comment field. It was impossible for me to sit all day and defend why I posted the link to the course in that group, and why I think food matter.
I deleted the thread, I checked all the comments and posts I’d added to the group before, deleted them as well and left the group.
There was nothing to be gained for me by being part of this forum.
I’ve been collaborating with academic researchers before exploring the world, I hate quackery medicine, I’m sceptical, but not cynical towards pseudo-science, and I think science matter. I would have been a perfect match for this group on Facebook. Right not we didn’t click.
I prefer to hang out in places online where people can agree, disagree and be kind. This group didn’t have that ability.
Is this good or bad for VoF running the Facebook group? Well, it’s a sensitive topic, and you will have subjective views, I would say that when you let aggressive voices and judgemental people run a group, it’s not good for your brand.
We need more kindness online. Being kind means that you are open to collaboration. Pride and bad judgement remove the creativity and collaborative abilities you once had. Helping others is deeply satisfying, and when you are collaborating you are stimulating the pleasure centre of the brain. The dopamine effect kicks in, and we feel awesome.
Tips for being kinder online and helping your brain create more ‘feel-good’ hormones:
- Don’t play the devil’s advocate on social media. Provoking debate or testing the strength of opposing arguments may lead nowhere, and you brand yourself as a nuisance.
- If you were wrong or misunderstood something be quick to apologise. Being right all the time is not always the more productive outcome.
- Be aware that people have different opinions and they don’t have to tell you in detail why they hold a particular view. It’s okay to disagree. Remember that winning an argument may lose you a friend.
- Be generous with compliments. Most people are starving from lack of encouragement.
- When you are kind online or in real life more ‘feel-good’ hormones release into your brain and body. Everyone wins.
- If you have a lot of authority in your online network, be a good role model. People learn from your behaviour and will copy you. We are programmed to copy others’ behaviour and if you behave like a sloppy, selfish bully people will learn that it’s okay to behave that way and the nasty behaviour will spread.
- Being a good example is one way to prevent ignorant and rude people taking over social media. You can’t control others but you can slow down and think before you post and comment online.
- Be kind and kindness will come in return.
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