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Social Media: Rethinking how we use our online voice

At our fingertips, we have access to networks of people all over the world. Through our social media, we can share messages, content, and photos from whatever we are doing and what to speak about with our connections.

As of January 2021, it has been noted there are over 4.20 billion social media users across the world (source: smart insights). During the COVID19 pandemic, much of the world had been locked away and required to implement social distancing. One of the only ways to keep connected with the outside world, keeping in contact with family and friends, and attempting to escape reality for a short time was to explore and utilise social media platforms.

Social media such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, and Twitter have the ability to connect us to world events, breaking news, and new cultures and environments we may never experience from the comfort of anywhere — most social media users access these platforms from their smartphones.

But there can be a dark side to the world of social media. Too often, people are able to freely share whatever they like and try and avoid any consequences because to them “it’s not hurting anyone.” This article will explore how the world badly uses social media and suggested ways to improve what we’re doing. My goal is to empower others to use their voice and their communication for good and consider the consequences of our words and our actions.

Unnecessary commentary and bullying:

MamaMia reported on 1 April 2021 that MasterChef contestant and runner up in the MasterChef 2020 competition, Laura Sharrad, was caught up in negative feelings such as feeling “sick”, “violated”, “unsafe” and “disgusted” because of some of the disturbing messages she received through her Instagram direct messages (or as the kids call it, ”the DMs”). The general public had a field day with Sharrad calling her smug when she celebrated a win and criticised for always making pasta.

The level of distance between someone at home and a reality TV star, who had recorded a particular episode months earlier, appears to be a reason why viewers at home think it is ok to share their negative opinions. As demonstrated by Sharrad’s reaction, there is someone who is reading those messages and negative comments and it can be damaging.

There are also those individuals who purposefully say hurtful things — bullies. The Australian eSafety Commission reported that one in five young people have reported being socially excluded, threatened, or abused online. The effect can be detrimental to the mental and physical health of individuals.

What are things that we can do?

We need to think about what we are saying and consider the effect the message may have on the person who is reading it. Our words and our language can make a real impact on those around us and those who read it.

Every time you go to share something online ask yourself the following three questions:

1. Who is this intended for?

Are you sharing a post to your friends and family to provide entertainment, value or to update those around you about your life? Thinking about who your post is intended for is going to be important regarding the type of language you use when you share it and who will want to engage with it.

With any form of communication, it is critical to think about who your audience is. We should share content that will be valuable for audiences and something that will be understood or enjoyed by them.

2. How will this be interpreted?

Although this should go without saying, why do we want to share content, words, or posts that are offensive to someone or a group of people? Every time you go to share something, think about how this will be interpreted and read by your connections, or potentially the rest of the world (depending on your privacy settings and the particular platform of course).

Posting hurtful or offensive content is something that could not only be detrimental for other people, but it could be used against you down the line. You may think it is ok to delete a post if it didn’t go as planned, but remember that it is very easy to screenshot posts.

Being anonymous also doesn’t help and certainly isn’t the answer either. The Australia High Court decided in 2019 that public servants can be fired for posting, even where those posts are anonymous (for more on this, check out the Comcare v Banerji decision).

3. Should I actually share this?

The final question once you’ve passed the other two hurdles is to really question whether this is something you should actually bother posting. Will anyone care? Will it be interesting? Will this provide value? Will the intended audience enjoy this post?

It is useful to have a bit of a final filter before you post something. Asking the question of yourself about whether you should share the post or the comment, the potential repercussions for doing so, and the purpose for posting it is a useful final check.

Ultimately social media is a powerful tool and as individuals, we are provided with brilliant platforms to keep connected, learn new things and also make a difference. Thinking about what we say, how we say it, and the potential ripple effect our words may have will pay dividends to you and your reputation and the feelings of others online.

We need to rethink how our voice may appear online. Think a little harder each time you share that comment, post, or image and think how it may be interpreted by those who are watching.

Enjoyed this article? Check out my TED (style) talk titled ‘How our words say more than we think’.

What to see more of what I’m doing? Head to my website www.theokap.com.au for more!

About the author:

Theo Kapodistrias is a multi-national award-winning lawyer and keynote speaker. He holds leadership positions in the not-for-profit sector and is considered a thought-leader in the legal environment. He is passionate about being involved in the community and holds several voluntary positions. He recently launched his keynote speaker business helping individuals to be seen, be heard, and make an impact www.theokap.com.au

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Theo Kapodistrias

Theo Kapodistrias

Award-winning Lawyer | Keynote Speaker — assisting individuals to be seen, be heard, and make an impact — www.theokap.com.au