Is Your Online Space a Reflection of You?

by Christa Hines on February 18, 2016

Tree of hearts

Illustration courtesy: Stuart Miles/

Every day we get to make choices about how we want to use social media. For most of us, our pages reflect who we are and what we believe in. We’re essentially architects of our online identity. If you feel uncomfortable being yourself because of social media “friends” judging, shaming and harassing you for your opinions, it’s time to take a critical look at who you’re allowing into your space.

People who attempt to make you feel bad about yourself, ridicule your beliefs or bully you because they disagree with your worldview, aren’t friends. They’re toxic trolls that attempt to feed on a person’s self-confidence. They don’t deserve to be part of your circle.

By the same token, not everyone in your online community needs to agree with everything you say or praise every carefully crafted word you write. Even when they openly disagree with you, there should be an expectation that you’ll treat each other with mutual respect. Because that’s what friends do. And if the discussion is happening on your virtual turf, you can demand that. Your page belongs to you. You get to make the rules.

When friends enter a thread you’ve started, they’re entering your living room. I welcome people who are willing to engage in thoughtful discussion. People will push you on your point of view. Push back. Ask them questions. Raise the level of conversation by setting a tone for safe, respectful discourse. And have an exit plan if conversation goes south.

The truth is, when we promote a post or share an opinion online, most of us aren’t hoping to ferret out the naysayers. Usually, we’re looking for affirmation from cohorts who agree with us. On the flip side, I have friends who revel in confrontation and they do it well, without alienating or slamming those who disagree in a hurtful way.

If your goal when entering an argument is to convince others who disagree, get yourself a tall, cool glass of water and pull up a comfortable chair. You’re in for a long, heated battle. Prepare for friendship casualties. For the most part, people are entrenched in their views. As Winston Churchill said, “If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.” Chances are you won’t win over dissenting hearts and minds with your political arguments, no matter how thoughtful or evidence-based your remarks. 

Members of your online community have every right to use their page to share their identity and to express their opinions. If you don’t like those views, you have choices. You can choose to ignore the posts. You can put forth your opinion in a thoughtful manner or even ask non-judgmental questions to better understand their viewpoint. Or, if someone seriously upsets you, you can choose to block or defriend that person.

Look, we all lead busy full lives. Why should we spend what free time we have in a space that spawns more stress and anxiety? Cultivate a supportive, kind online community where you can happily hang out for a few minutes a day. Design your space to reflect your individual creativity and your values. Make it a place that gives you a sense of joy and peace and attracts others who value the same. It’s your real-estate. Own it.

How do you manage your online space? What do you like to see in your feed and what do you prefer to leave behind?

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