How To Stay Cool in the Heat of Social Media

Staying cool.

Easy to do in the dead of winter, but not always so easy to do when interacting in the world of social media.

Like interactions in real life, social media interactions are spontaneous and off-the-cuff.  And, like in-person interactions, they can also be contentious.

Social media interactions differ, however,  in that they are on display, in writing, and permanent. Yes, blog posts can be altered, tweets removed and facebook posts limited to “Friends”; but screen shots can be taken, pages and texts can be saved.

Basically, if you say it online or send it in a text, you have to assume that you have (a) said it forever and (b) said it to the world.

In our private lives, this may not seem like such a big issue, but what about engaging in social media surrounding professional issues?

Nurses are a passionate group when it comes to discussing, defending and promoting the profession, and that doesn’t change when the venue is social media. Here are ways to keep your cool when topics are controversial, opinions are flying and the heat is intensifying:

1. Put Your Name On It

You are less likely to say anything you will regret later if your name is attached. For some, anonymity is a necessity, but putting your name on the line adds credibility.

2. The 5 Minute Rule

Incensed by what you’ve read and ready to let ’em have it? Fine, pen that missive! Then walk away for five minutes. Come back. If you are comfortable after re-reading with fresh eyes, hit the send button.

3. Remember…

Do not forget that there is another person at the end of that tweet, post or comment. Tone of voice, nuances of facial expression and other modes of communication are not present in the written word, and things are easily taken out of context. Rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t say it in person, don’t say it in writing.

What if you are on the receiving end of a heated social media exchange?

1. Take a breath.

Although it can feel like you’ve been hit in the chest, take a step back. Don’t respond immediately. The advantage of a written exchange is you have the chance to focus on a response. A second or third read may reveal content missed on the first run through, and waiting ensures emotions don’t get in the way of a calm, reasoned response.

2. Look At the Other Side

Look at the issue from the view of the other person. Maybe it isn’t personal at all, but simply a passionate response to a sensitive issue. Or perhaps it is an inadvertently insensitive response that happens to make some good points along the way.  Those could be worth engaging in a dialog.

If it the communication is just plain nasty, with no goal but to insult you and your mother’s ancestors, your best bet is to ignore it.

3. Don’t Argue

Don’t argue with someone who is angry. Acknowledge the opinions of the opposition and make your own observations if you feel you need to, but don’t waste your energy in getting into an argument vs. a dialog.

Staying cool while navigating through social media waters can be done. Own what you say, don’t hit “send” in the heat of the moment, and never forget you are dealing with human beings at the other end of the wifi. Don’t respond to attacks impulsively, try and look at the other side and remember that it’s useless to argue with someone who is angry.

Even heated discussions via social media can be productive, with simple rules and mutual respect.