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?
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.