Over the past few months I’ve seen various people complaining about social media interactions, with comments such as the following:
- My Facebook (or Twitter) timeline is filled with people saying horrible things.
- My aunt (or co-worker, college friend, etc.) shared an article that’s factually wrong.
- Someone is continually saying things I find abhorrent.
What can you do in such situations? There are a number of choices:
Take the time to respond with reliable information or a well-reasoned argument
This can be time-consuming, so I’d recommend limiting this response to situations where the other person is likely to be influenced by what you write. For example, when people fall for a story that has been debunked by Snopes.com, they often appreciated being directed to accurate information. But if the subject involves long-held political or religious beliefs, you are unlikely to sway them to your point of view.
Just ignore it
As the xkcd comic says, people are wrong on the Internet all the time — wrong according to your view of the world, at any rate. So in many cases, just ignoring what someone has written is the easiest way to avoid frustration. For example, you don’t need to read a relative’s entire 500-word post supporting a political candidate you dislike. You can see it, shake your head, and move on. That will save you time and limit the annoyance factor.
Similarly, if many people in your social media circle are discussing a topic that always gets you angry, that may be a good time to ignore Facebook, Twitter, or other such networks for a while.
Hide updates you don’t want to see
Ignoring something can be hard, so it may be better to unclutter your timeline and just not see certain posts in the first place. Twitter readers such as TweetDeck, Tweetbot, and Twitterrific allow you to mute text strings. If you don’t want to read anything about a certain person, organization, or event, you can just mute the relevant name or hashtag. That’s not foolproof, because variations on the name might still make it through your filter, but it will catch a lot of the aggravating posts.
With Facebook, you can choose to hide a specific story that appears in your newsfeed. That means you’ll still have seen it once, but you don’t have to keep seeing it as people respond.
Disengage with selected people
Sometimes it works better to hide posts from selected people than to hide posts based on the topic. While you may certainly want to read posts from people who disagree with you, some people’s posts may be so frustrating that seeing them doesn’t serve you well.
You may feel obligated to friend your relatives on Facebook, but you can still unfollow them — which means you’ll stay connected but you won’t see anything they post. (Alternatively, you can choose to just see fewer updates from these people.) If you don’t feel any obligation to be connected to a specific person, you can just unfriend someone whose posts continually annoy you. On Twitter, you can unfollow someone (the equivalent of unfriending on Facebook) or just mute the person.