Since the election, I’ve been at a loss as to what to share online. It feels like the collective is either screaming with rage, weighed down in despair, or checked out. I stare at my screen and wonder, “What should I share? What is truly needed?”
I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve talked to recently who have said, “I don’t go on Facebook anymore,” or “I’m spending as little time online as possible.” If I didn’t do most of my work online, I’d probably log off too. The collective roar of virtual anger, sadness and despair can feel overwhelming.
I think we’re going to see a rise in live events to counter online fatigue, but the web isn’t going anywhere. Whether you share your thoughts online personally, or professionally, I think it’s important for all of us to think about how each word, image, and video we share online has a ripple effect.
In my opinion, there are four qualities we need to cultivate in our online communication during these stressful times:
1. Truth. The web has made communication and sharing so easy that many of the rules of good journalism have been thrown out the window (e.g. fact-checking, researching the validity of sources, giving credit to work that is not your own). As we enter into a time when the term “alternative facts” has become part of our lexicon, it’s more important than ever to share the truth online. That means everything from making sure quotes are attributed to the right person (even inspiring ones), to not assuming everything you read online is true, to researching and crediting sources, to not painting our lives as being full of unicorns and rainbows.
2. Grounded. Information overload + emotional overload = overwhelm and shut down. People need concrete, relevant, accessible, timely information right now (e.g how to cook dinner for your family after working all day, how to manage post-election anxiety, how to start journaling, how to contact your Congressperson, how to cultivate a daily exercise routine, how to be an intersectional activist). So many people are asking, “What can I do?” Help them channel their fear and anxiety into practical actions that will help them feel calm and empowered.
3. Uplifting. Just like when you’re carrying a heavy box for a long time, you have to stop and rest once in a while, we need to have breaks from the unrelenting bad news, or we’ll shut down. Reading something funny, hopeful, inspiring, or entertaining can re-energize us. There’s a reason that comedic takes on the news (e.g. The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Full Frontal with Sam Bee, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, SNL’s Weekend Update) are so popular. They allow us to laugh at horrible things. Give your people a reason to feel hope and joy again.
4. Safety. There’s sooooooooo much that we need to talk about right now, but we can’t do it if we feel like we’re going to be virtually screamed at when we share our opinion. One of the beauties of social media is that it is social. It can facilitate conversation and sharing. Unfortunately, it can also encourage trolling and verbal abuse. In order to foster online discussions, we need to create safe spaces where people feel comfortable voicing their opinion and sharing their story. One way to do that is to create very clear commenting and discussion guidelines, and to jump in quickly if they aren’t being followed.
What do you think of the state of our online conversation at the moment?
How has it changed what, or how you communicate online?
Photos by me.