I know I can’t be the only one who has been there: finger hovering angrily above a trackpad as the pointer of a computer mouse sits looming on top of the “unfriend” button on Facebook. Feeling a wave of relief as soon as you hit “unfollow” on Twitter can come with guilt at a later date, but unbelievable satisfaction at the time being. No, I don’t mean the joy of finally deleting your old crush or even that friend you let go of as soon as you moved off to college. I mean your real life friends and family, and how, sometimes, you just want to mute their social media presence.
Don’t get me wrong, social media is great. Not only am I in the business of media (such a perfect way to engage with readers), but I’m also a Millennial and proud of it. My generation might Instagram too much food and turn everything into a hashtag (i.e. #hashtag), but we've also changed the world of marketing, remodeled how consumers engage with interactive news from so many sources, and realized that poking people on Facebook is just not something you do, despite your Grandma’s good intentions.
But all roses come accompanied with a few thorns. And because we spend so much time on social media, it’s hard for everyone to keep their views neutral or non-existent on their social accounts. We all have that one relative that posts political statuses almost every day, or the high school friend who posts her radically polarizing religious views or lack thereof, much to the dismay of the hundreds of commenters who couldn’t help but add in their two cents.
When you’re feeling frustrated by the inability for some to keep their comments politically correct or well-informed, there are some simple solutions I’ve used to help block out the online instigators while keeping offline relationships intact.
1) Have an honest convo offline
This might be intimidating at first, but if you value your relationship offline, you need to handle your issues with them in person. Maybe they use their Facebook account as a makeshift diary and you’re sick of seeing them rag on people you know, mope about and generally make everything online about them. The next time you’re alone, strike up a simple conversation about their online tendencies. Don’t embarrass them by discussing this in front of a whole group, even if you all feel similarly it will feel like an attack. Instead of saying “I hate when you do XYZ,” try to understand where they’re coming from. If you gently suggest not posting certain things on social media they will probably listen to you. Serve as an open book for offline debates, vent sessions and more, and give them that attention they may be missing out on otherwise and seeking online.
2) Refrain from commenting
If you see a post that so radically doesn’t align with your views or beliefs, the worst possible thing you can do on social media with someone you love and respect offline is to comment, reply, or reblog that post and add your own opinion into the mix. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be able to debate and respectfully disagree with someone you love. You absolutely should. The issue lies in that when you make your opinion and reply public, it not only can come off harsher than you mean in real life, but it invites other readers and commenters to feel entitled to get involved. No one wants to be ganged up on, or for their friend to feel like you’re ganging up on them. If you feel strongly enough to voice your opinion to your friend, that would be a great time to refer to number one and have an open conversation with them online.
3) Send a private message
If you’re at work or unable to call or meet up with your controversial friend for any reason, it’s still not a good idea to comment and voice your concerns. If you must say something, sending it in a private message is a great alternative. It’s still better to talk in person to make sure that there’s no misunderstanding of tone or intentions, but letting someone know your opinion or your concern for their post is much more personable and less of an attack via message.
4) Beware of trolls
Some people are just out there to get a rise out of people. Don’t fall for it. Don’t be someone commenting back and forth and getting passionate about something that the original poster doesn’t care at all about. If every post someone makes is clearly aiming to incite their friends or followers, ignore them, they’re probably just a troll. The definition of a troll is someone who posts certain things just to stir the pot and get passionate people in the internet mad for the troll’s own enjoyment. They want attention, but not in a good way. You’re better than that. Letting yourself get upset about someone who doesn’t care about you is a waste of time. If a troll is bothersome enough, it’s okay to skip to number six and delete them.
5) Mute them from your timeline
If someone isn’t necessarily being rude, offensive or troll-ish, but you still need a break from them as far as social media goes, there are measures to take. You can hide a person’s posts from your timeline temporarily or permanently while keeping your online and offline friendship intact while giving you some piece of mind. When the protests in Ferguson, MO were taking place a couple of years ago, I had to hide some friends and family from my timeline to steer clear of any triggers. Your friend won’t get a notification of this change on your part, and you can still check their posts on your terms. The relief of not being forced to view things that may trigger you is immense.
6) Delete, delete, delete
Unfortunately sometimes people let social media get the best of them. If you met someone at an old job or at your alma mater, you might have gotten along well in a professional or educational environment, but have since noticed your stark differences. If you realized that the person you connected with isn’t who you thought, or that what they contribute to the conversation is negatively affecting your or those you love, it’s okay to delete them as a friend or unfollow them. There’s no rule saying you have to be Facebook friends with everyone or that you MUST follow someone back. If you’re uncomfortable, let them go. After all, social media may be a big part of our day hour-by-hour, but offline relationships and your state of being and comfort trum any amount of social media tolerance for things that we just don’t want to see.