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How to make enemies and alienate people

We’ve discussed here before how to win social media, both on Facebook and Twitter. Most of the advice boils down to Wheaton’s Law, which is:

Surprisingly, this is very, very difficult for a lot of people. I’m not sure if this is because they truly like being dickish, or they don’t REALIZE they’re being dickish, or it’s too hard to think, so therefore they just say whatever crosses their minds the minute they sit down at a keyboard…but whatever the reason is, the dicks seem to outnumber the people with something real and helpful to say online, most specifically in the comment sections.

Most people I know are, for good reason, aware that if you read an article online, you don’t, under any circumstances, read the comment section. Why? Well. Because here be dragons, of course.

For every kind, helpful and relevant comment online, you have to wade through people being racist, sexist, or just downright weird, and it starts to turn your stomach and despair for the human race.

But what about if you CAN’T avoid the comments? What if it’s your job to be the one to POLICE the comments?

I will never not love this guy. FAVORITE POLTICIAN EVER!

I will never not love this guy. FAVORITE POLITICIAN EVER!

One of the aspects of my current job is social media. Five days a week, I’m in charge of the work Facebook page and Twitter account (along with my other multitudinous tasks, of course. I’m a busy bee. But I am a HAPPY busy bee, so there’s that, then.) I not only schedule the posts our readers see, I’m in charge of reading their comments for a few reasons – to see what they’re saying (it might come in handy in the future); to see if there are problems (sometimes they tell us about typos/errors in the article or on the site, which we can hopefully quickly fix); and to make sure things aren’t getting off-topic or squirrelly.

Things often get off-topic and squirrelly.

Twitter isn’t bad, only because people in this area don’t use Twitter as much as I wish they did. (It’s a great resource for a newspaper – we can get the news out almost immediately and have a constant stream of it going to our readers. It just hasn’t taken off around here like it has in more populated regions. I think it will, eventually; we’re just late adopters.) The people who follow us on Twitter are respectful and polite, for the most part, and I never feel like I’m wading into The Princess Bride‘s Fire Swamp when I check our Twitter page.

fireswamp

The Facebook page, however, is a very different beast.

Now, please don’t go into this thinking I don’t appreciate – and even enjoy – a vast majority of our commenters. We’d be nowhere without our readers, and I love that they’re out there and paying attention.

It’s the fringe contingent that worries me. And keep me busy hiding their comments. And sometimes shaking my head and thinking, “oh, I don’t…oh, oh no.”

SO. For those people, I’d like to give you a quick list of pointers. You are very quick to complain when your comments disappear, vocally and angrily; you are very quick to shout “CENSORSHIP!” and “THANKS, OBAMA!” when you think you’ve been silenced. Hopefully, this will help you navigate the waters of our social media more successfully.

HOW TO NOT BE A DICK ON PUBLIC SOCIAL MEDIA PAGES

  • Watch your language. I don’t know if you’re aware, but Facebook has a helpful function for those of us that moderate a public page. We can choose to have comments with swear words immediately hidden, so only we can see them. We very much utilize this function, as we have every intention of being a public page, and the last thing we want is some hapless child stumbling upon you cussing the hell out of a news story. Also, you kiss your mother with that mouth? Good grief, yo.
  • Stay on topic. Of course, there’s leeway here. I’m not saying there’s one path to greatness, people. But if we put up a post about, say, a fundraiser picnic, and you start rambling on about how angry you are that there are so many mosquitoes this year and there’s no global warming because of that LIAR AL GORE!, that’s just confusing and you might be a conspiracy-crazy. I’m not saying I’m blocking it, but people are going to think you’re a looney.

    Except for you, Mulder. You can comment any old time.

    Except for you, Mulder. You can comment any old time.

  • Remember: since it’s a public page, everyone on your timeline, as well as anyone in the world, can see what you’ve said, and hover over your icon and see your profile. It’s just the way Facebook is set up, my little chickadees. You give up your anonymity when you comment on a public page. If you’ve got your page locked down, when they go to look at you, they won’t see much…but you’re still not anonymous. Your name is there. EVERYONE NOW KNOWS YOUR NAME. And your comment shows up in your friends’ newsfeed. I have a friend of a friend who’s very involved with commenting on social media sites. Every time he comments on our paper, my friend says, “I see So-and-So commented on your work Facebook page again!” Everyone’s seeing what you say. Keep that in mind when you comment. If you’re not being a jerk, you have nothing to worry about. If you are, however…well, your mom’s probably seeing that (assuming your mom has Facebook. My mom doesn’t. I’m one of the lucky few.) Do you want your mom seeing that? Are you sure?
  • Personal insults? Really? What grade are you in? We have had to take down entire posts because people randomly started insulting the other commenters, the people in the article, random politicians (seriously, if I never see another non-ironic “THANKS, OBAMA!” it’ll be too soon), and, in one weird thread, God. (Yes, some guy started really insulting God, like, over and over. SO MAD AT GOD.) That counts as off-topic, and it counts as just downright mean, people. STOP IT. I get it. You are filled with all of the hatred. You are ready to explode like a hatred volcano. Sometimes *I* am the target of the hatred volcano. Sometimes my beloved coworkers who wrote the articles are (and it takes every bit of my precarious self-control to not respond with a very biting “WE ARE RUBBER YOU ARE GLUE!” rebuttal, because when it comes to my coworkers, I am such a Momma Bear.) But if you go too far, I’m hiding your comments, buckaroo. I don’t like meanness. I don’t like the idea that people are walking around with a stomachache because someone was mean to them for no reason on our social media. Make a new plan, Stan, and screw off home.

    Oh, is THIS who's to blame. UGH THANKS OBAMA

    Oh, is THIS who’s to blame. UGH THANKS OBAMA

  • Why you gotta be so dirty? SO MUCH NAUGHTINESS. I’m immediately hiding your comments saying female politicians got to where they are “on their knees” or that the local taco place sells “fish tacos that remind me of my ex-girlfriend.” Seriously? What are you hoping to accomplish with this comment? Like, cracking up your friends with a “HEE HEE DIRTY COMMENT ON A PUBLIC SITE?” or “UNGH I AM SO SEXY THIS IS LIKE AN OBSCENE PHONE CALL FOR *EVERYONE*!” I don’t even know. I have ALMOST the least tolerance for this. The LEAST tolerance is saved for…
  • On my watch? No racist, sexist, homophobic comments. Not going to happen. Don’t even try. And if they happen when the other people I work with are on social media, I’ll sometimes randomly check and hide your comments EVEN THOUGH I AM NOT WORKING. Yeah, you heard me right. I FEEL SO STRONGLY ABOUT THIS, I DO THAT SHIT FOR FREE, YO. You don’t get to have a public forum to spew your hatred. Sorry. I know, right, FREE SPEECH? Well, we run the page, and you lost your right to free speech when you commented on it. We have the right to moderate. And until the day my fingers fall off, I will not allow you to put hate speech on our site.
  • Acting too cool for school is actually the stupidest thing ever. We get a lot of “who cares?” or “slow news day” comments. Did you really take time out of your day to write that? Actual time you could have been spending on something else? YOU obviously care, because you took that time out of your day. And no, it’s not a “slow news day.” There’s no such thing. If we posted the article, we think someone can benefit from reading it; if it doesn’t resonate with you, maybe…oh, I don’t know, don’t feel like you have to comment? It’s not like you have to comment on everything. No! Really! You don’t have to! I know, freeing, right?
  • Maybe spell/grammar check? I’m a little more stringent about this than others. I hate ALL typos. It’s what I do for a living; you can’t really blame me. Most people don’t care if you make a few. But I’m talking about the people who write a comment like “For teh all people eat fodo there waffles, good yunger.” I don’t…what does this mean? Do you even know what it means? Is it a puzzle? If I solve it, what do I win? (Is it waffles? That’s a worthy prize. I’ll take it.)
  • Don’t try to sell me a car. We randomly get a Ugandan businessman who spams about 15 of our posts with a huge long “CARS FOR SALE!” comment. We block him; he comes back in another incarnation about a month later. We’re going to keep blocking you, buddy. No one wants your used Buicks. And how would they even GET here from Uganda? Logistical nightmare.

These all seem common sense, right? Yeah, you’d be surprised. If you’re looking at the comment section of a public site, know that most likely, even though your blood pressure is up? Most of the worst comments HAVE ALREADY BEEN TAKEN DOWN. I know. Humbling, right?

So the next time you’re going to comment on a public page, take a deep breath, think, “Is this a dick move? Should I do this? Am I building someone up, or knocking someone down? Do I have a valid point? Is there even any REASON for me to make this comment?” If you can answer all of your questions and still look yourself in the eye in the mirror…you are welcome! Comment away! If not…maybe start a blog where you can say what you want, with no fear of The Powers That Be shutting you down.

...or you'll make Ron Swanson annoyed. You don't want to make Ron Swanson annoyed. Trust me.

…or you’ll make Ron Swanson annoyed. You don’t want to make Ron Swanson annoyed. Trust me.

And, to those of you with actual, helpful, intelligent comments to make? THANK YOU. You make my day/month/year. Keep on keepin’ on, you guys. You make what we do worthwhile.

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About lucysfootball

I'm not the girl with the most cake. Someday. SOMEDAY. View all posts by lucysfootball

45 responses to “How to make enemies and alienate people

  • Dana

    I think the puzzle comments are funny. Just some random string of words that don’t even seem to fit together, let alone have anything to do with the topic, makes me laugh.

    Liked by 1 person

  • becomingcliche

    WordPress is doing weird things. I tried to comment before, but it said “If you’re who you say you are, gimme your password.” Right. Like giving a bully my lunch money.

    Anyway, I wonder how many people don’t realize that when they comment on a FB news story, everyone knows who they are, and everyone they know can see it. My guess is a fair few.

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      Ha! That’s my plan, lady. I’m collecting all your passwords like candy, then I’m gonna sell ’em to the Russians. (Is that who we sell things to? The Russians? I can’t keep track of such things.)

      I think the number of people who don’t know how Facebook works FAR exceeds the number of people who do. And that just makes me sad. For them, and for Facebook, who makes their site as confusing as possible in the hope that people won’t bother to investigate how it works and that their data is being mined and that everyone can see all their bid-ness, yo.

      Like

  • mfennvt

    You’re a brave woman. Thanks for keeping your news page a nice place. And yes, I would like to win some waffles, too, please. :)

    Like

  • pattheponderer

    I have an addiction to reading the “comments” section for news articles. Sometimes the comments give me hope and I can see the light of humanity. Other times I feel that the human race cannot last much longer, but the hopeful comments tend to stick with me much more strongly.

    Like

  • 2000detours

    Dang straight. I’m constantly amazed at how fast the comments section of even innocuous online stories dissolves into a pissing match between trolls. Why, people? Why?

    Liked by 1 person

    • lucysfootball

      I don’t know if I’ll ever figure that out, who these people are and what makes them act as they do. Loneliness? Anger? Hatred? No idea. Doesn’t make it any easier to watch happen, though, does it? Even if you try to sympathize with them.

      Like

  • chocoholicandcat

    Well said. As always the tagline is “Don’t be a Dick” :D

    Liked by 1 person

  • cynthiaw

    Ugh… for real. Every single time that I tempt fate and decide to read the comments, I end up feeling dirty. And I’ve totally given up on even MAKING comments after having a couple of scary misogynistic comments directed my way.

    My sister has a “friend” who is very anti-Obama and has been known to un-ironically say Thanks, Obama to stuff. So, the rest of us like to post things like “Wow, what a beautiful day to ride my bike today. Thanks, Obama!” or “Had a great time with my friends at RenFest. Thanks, Obama!” Or “OMG, I had the best pie and coffee ever today. Thanks, Obama!” And it makes him so, so very angry and we all laugh and laugh.

    Like

  • earthandink

    I lock down the comments on my blog for this reason. I approve every single one of them. And your freedom of speech ends where my blog begins. Of course, a newspaper facebook page is a different animal. You have no choice but to be public.

    I’ve seriously considered starting a website that awards people for commenting well. For instance, if you comment on a news article and you are on topic, thoughtful, and not randomly hateful, you get an entry. Register your entries and win glamorous prizes! I’m not really sure how that would work, though. The logistics seem hard. But I love, love, love the idea of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lucysfootball

      I love that idea. I think that’s why the comments on blogs are so much better than the comments on newspapers/magazines – smaller communities, fewer crazies. (And probably better policed – we’re really anal about our comments, but I know a lot of papers/magazines don’t have the staff to be able to do that, or just don’t think it’s important.)

      I completely agree – I’ve been lucky in that I’ve very seldom had to delete comments or ban commenters, but I don’t want hate here. Disagreement, discussion – sure. There’s absolutely room for that. But not hate and not meanness. This (unlike the paper) is my space, and I get to police it as I choose.

      Like

  • Michael

    Well I must say that I look forward to reading comments on all blog posts that I encounter and some of the news feeds as well. They are a great communication tools when they are composed for the right reasons. (Now a totally off subject remark like…. Soup is good food!… can be fun as well!)

    Liked by 1 person

  • thursdayschild108

    Good one! Those are the type of people it’s no shame to alienate :-)

    Like

  • lgalaviz

    I don’t have any cars for sale, but I wish I did so I could post them here. Can I post a pic of my cat? I’m fairly certain that pictures of my cat will be on topic for almost anything.

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      You have free rein to post ANYTHING you want, both here AND on my work sites. Cat photos are always on topic, and I will sell the HELL out of your car for you, if you decide you want to sell it. You have to drive it to New York, though. And it’s really snowy here and we can’t see over most of the snowbanks and it’s all very disheartening and I think I might live in the tundra.

      Liked by 1 person

  • allthenamesaretakensothisisreallyreallylong

    Yes. I decided to steer clear of the comments section of our local media outlets; because it was making me so very dark about humanity. Your pointers are all spot on.

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      See, that makes me so sad – it’s like the troll-people have won. The people with real things to say, with real humanity and heart, don’t dare comment because they’ll be shouted down (and they don’t even want to wade through the filth of the comments in order TO comment.) There are some wonderful things about the internet…comment sections aren’t one of them, sadly.

      Liked by 1 person

      • allthenamesaretakensothisisreallyreallylong

        Totally. I want to have a real conversation about local politics, but the trolls keep me from trying. Some national sites have decent commenters. Slate’s commenters are typically witty and smart. Mostly. NYTimes and NPR seem to gather more interesting comments than obnoxious ones. Perhaps they are just moderating better.

        Like

        • lucysfootball

          I think in-person might be the only place to have conversations about local politics…online it just turns into “I HATE YOUR STUPID WRONG FACE!” and that’s not worth the headache, sadly.

          The more highbrow the site, the better the commenters, I’ve found. If the commenters are using proper punctuation, grammar and spelling, and if the moderators are doing a good job, people feel free to leave better comments. I love that.

          Liked by 1 person

  • topofthebottompile

    With the good comes the bad, with the joyful comes the somber. You must embrace the clouds to enjoy the Sun and so on and so forth with cliches. Very excellent read! We thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Like

  • bensamuelharrison

    Ha,
    Just blame the poloticians
    That sounds like pretty much every one in Britain
    But to be fair to us it is usually the governments fault. Lol
    PS. Contrary to popular belief the British aren’t all that posh. Just the people who seem to appear on tv and maybe am well spoken
    The bbc are probably in the process of hiring me right now. Lol
    Only the well off get money
    Lol

    Like

  • swiceGOODyoga

    So glad someone else shares my loathing for the “Thanks Obama” postings. I’m pretty sure I saw someone get mad at Obama the other day on Facebook because they stubbed their toe. Also….the squirrel and Ron Swanson picture were really great addition. Mad props.

    Like

  • whereshappy

    I am a social media junkie and you pretty much hit some really good points. I used to enjoy conversing with people in the comments but it’s just a million ways of crazy now.

    Like

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