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5 Internet Rules to Preserve Your Sanity
Just trust me on this one.
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Today’s piece is my first proper rant. Let me know what you think in the comments! Enjoy!
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The furor over Threads (Twitter Jr.) has me thinking about all the calories we waste on social media playing silly status games.
Notice the big “we” here that masquerades as a capital “I.”
I’ve been trolled on Twitter, I’ve been misunderstood and put on blast (also on Twitter), I’ve also committed most of the sins that caused these rules. This is why every infraction makes me bang my head into my keyboard (I’m on my second one this year).1 I’ve felt them viscerally.
So please heed these rules to preserve your sanity online and minimize the toxicity that permeates social media today.
Don’t argue on social media
Why are we still arguing with others on social media? I’ve been a keyboard warrior for years. I’ve never changed anyone’s mind. Ever. Once I sent someone a well-researched six page fact check to someone who had asked me to “prove it.”
Their response: *crickets*
Their views didn’t skew the slightest. You know, bias and all that.
In particular, do not argue with anonymous social media profiles. They have every advantage to be dismissive, offensive, and pedantic.
Want to change someone’s mind? Send them MDMA.2
Don’t put people on blast
There is nothing as self-serving as when someone posts on Linkedin/Twitter something along these lines:
“Haha! Look at this idiot who sent me the worst cold email in the world. What a moron. Take the time to do your research, you imbecile!”
This email is cringy. It makes my eyes roll harder than people who think owning an Android phone is a dating red flag.3
The worst is when the poster doesn't even bother to hide the sender’s identity. Publicly shaming the sender as if they’ve never said something stupid in their lives.
Cold emailing people is scary and people can and do get it wrong. They may not do their research, get your name wrong, or send poorly tailored mass emails. But if you were on the other side of the situation, do you think public shaming would be the most constructive resolution? Is it kind? Is it necessary? Or is it masking your insecurities?
If you get a cringy cold email, give them that feedback in the way you would like to receive it. That’s it. No one else needs to know.
You got a nasty thing to say? Record it first (if you dare).
A peril of online communication is that people have forgotten that saying hurtful/offensive things can get you punched in the face.4 People throw categorial accusations, call people abominable names, create nasty memes, all without consequences.
In absence of this feedback, we need to increase the friction whenever we are about to be nasty online. The temptation is strong, I get it. You will feel like that person is really asking for it. So if that’s your impulse, turn on your camera, record the nasty thought and send it to them.
I’d like to see this guy do it.
I have this silly little dream where a social media platform will read the message beforehand and force a video post in order to publish that nasty thing.
Of course that will never happen because adding friction to posting outrage is kryptonite for sites like Twitter and Facebook, which prey upon our worst compulsions.
You don’t need to share an opinion about everything
You don’t need an opinion about a missing submarine with a bunch of wealthy people and juxtaposing it to migrant deaths at sea. If you are “bringing awareness” about migrant deaths at sea now, I don’t doubt that you care and that this upsets you (it upsets me too). But you probably care far more about letting people know that you are morally outraged, inconsequential as it might be.
There is a value in expressing your thoughts/opinion (that’s why this blog exists!). This is not about silencing your voice, but questioning whether the origin of your public outrage is really about virtue signaling or a genuine sense of duty to be vocal about that thing you care about.
I’ve come to realize that a lot of the things I’ve shared whenever some sort of mass inequality becomes evident is that the goal really is about letting people know that I think this is wrong, more than a genuine desire of righting the societal wrong.
And if you catch yourself going down this trap, then ask yourself whether it’s worth posting anything, or letting your thoughts simmer to find more constructive actions.
Don’t film yourself crying on the Internet.
Save it for the audition tapes. If you want to express sorrow and grief, do not encapsulate them in a 15 second snapshot of your puffy eyes and abundant mucus while trying to make us believe that “it just happened” as you started recording. Use words. Make ME cry, but don’t sell me your tears for likes. Please.
You want to see a good example of how to create beautifully moving stories that can move people to tears? Check out this Humans of New York story from last December. Try not to cry.
Bonus: Make it about you!
This is the most important rule. Stop posting on one site vs. the other because you want to “stick it to the man.” Guess what, the man doesn’t care. They don’t know you exist. Not only are you letting someone live rent-free in your head, you are also letting them decorate the damn house.
Instead, spend time on the social media that nurtures you. That inspires you to create. Where you interact with people who bring out the best of you and who fill you with joy. In the age of algorithm-fed media, you need to learn to curate your own consumption.
Doing things out of spite (no matter how justified) is shitty fuel to power your life.
Make decisions guided by what you want to do more of versus what you want to avoid. It’s easy to change your inputs and habits if you are driving towards something rather than avoiding it. It’s no perfect science, but if you think the opposite works, good luck with that.
Follow these rules or violate them at your own peril. I’m no saint. But I’ve been very deliberate about spreading kindness, curiosity, and joy online. I’m having hard conversations with myself where I realize how many little things I do daily to fulfill the desire to be loved, despite the dozens of times I told my therapist that I “didn’t seek external validation” (ha!).
You want a less toxic space online? It starts with us. Like most things in life.
It starts with us.
Stay sane out there!
I’m on my second keyboard because the first one stopped working. I do not need an intervention…I think.
But don’t go don't go all Ted Kaczinsky and send random substances in the mail.
Get over yourselves. It’s a fucking phone.
Not a fan of physical violence. Though I do think a lot of people that have grown up online fully believe they can be mean without any consequences.