Redefining Discourse on Social Media: Tips for Fostering Respect and Understanding

Anna R.
March 25, 2024

Do you ever feel like everyone on social media has become unusually mean? And not just mean in the "you're ugly" way, but in the defamatory and downright nasty way?

For me, it certainly does. It feels redundant to dive into it again, so here’s a piece I wrote about digital cancel culture and being a radically imperfect and sometimes bad leftist. TLDR: I used to engage in online conflicts excessively, wasting energy on internet drama and spreading some wack energy into the universe. Eventually, it became exhausting, leading me to take a three-year break from social media. However, upon my return, I encountered the same toxic attitudes, arguments, and general negativity. I also notice many people expressing fatigue, and while it's understandable given the current state of the world, does this level of exhaustion actually contribute to the change or movement you seek to create?

I firmly believe that energy is important. The energy you put into the world, invest in your individual life and passions, and extend to others, holds significant importance. At a certain point, I had to evaluate my own energy and assess whether the arguments I engaged in on social media served my mental health, goals, and the larger movement. As you might have guessed, they didn't. After much introspection, tears, and discomfort, I reassessed where my skills and energy truly belong, seeking ways to combat hate and violence while maintaining a balanced and fulfilling life for myself.

Anyways, here are some practices I employ to maintain balance, preserve my mental health, and strive to be a more positive individual.

Simply Don’t Engage
This may seem straightforward, but it's easier said than done. If you encounter something disagreeable online, keep scrolling, keep it moving, babes, without being compelled to comment. When faced with hostility, consider not engaging. Trolls and antagonizers typically seek attention and to provoke a reaction. Be like Gwyneth Paltrow and wish them well.

Adopt a 'Let Them' Mindset
Seriously, this single practice shifted my life and thinking. If someone else is going to talk shit, let them, if someone is going to hate from outside the club, let them, if someone wants to lose weight, let them, if someone is going to support something or someone I don’t agree with, let them. Other people's actions aren’t of interest to me. I have my own energy and goals to stay focused on.

Stop Counting What's in Other People's Wallets
Understand that appearances can be deceiving. Some people don’t have as much money as they claim to, and some have way more. At the end of the day, you never know someone's financial situation. You also never know what costs people might be having to incur, they could have costly medical expenses or have to support a family member financially. And for the sake of being controversial, just remember the middle class, the people making 100k/year aren't the enemy; it's the ultra-rich like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.

Mute and/or Unfollow
You shape your feed. Choose who you follow wisely. If someone's content no longer resonates with you, it's okay to unfollow instead of harboring dislike for their new content. Sometimes people change, allow them to change, you can choose whether you want to be part of that. 

Stop Weaponizing Your Own Identities
Your identities should not be used as weapons. Avoid using them to assert your opinions as absolute truths. Respect the diversity within identities and refrain from speaking on behalf of an entire community.

Pause the Doom Scrolling
Pause the doom scrolling: The world is dark and cruel and fucking burning. It’s ok to take a break, it doesn’t make you bad. I’m not saying completely disengage, but if you find yourself unable to engage in your daily life activities because of your time spent scrolling it might be time to take a break or consider a SSRI.

Balance the Content You Consume
Stay informed, but don't let it consume you entirely. Enjoy content that brings you joy, whether it's fashion channels or watching Last Holiday starring Queen Latifah in 53 parts on TikTok.

Implement Your Own Fact-Checking
Fact-checking is important, I think it’s important to rely in part on social media platforms' internal fact-checking systems that have been put in, but also your own. A quick Google search can be life-changing. This type of fact-checking is especially important for accounts that are faceless or love to repost grainy videos and will continue to be important with the rise of AI. Don’t be a boomer on Facebook.

Evaluate Your Feelings of Jealousy
Babe, I’m going to give you some tough love, because I wish someone had given it to me. Sometimes that hate you're experiencing is actually jealousy. Sometimes that level that you are criticizing someone else is because you might be having your own insecurities. It’s okay to be insecure, but watch how you project it onto others. Stop comparing yourself to others; we’re all on our own path and have had different life circumstances. Still feeling a way, just channel Jemima Kirke and stop thinking about yourself so much.

Take it Private, and Keep it That Way
I think dialogue is good, but I also think it’s really hard to do on social media. I’ve been guilty of calling people out in the comment section, and while it felt good at the time, I wonder how much good it did. While I typically never really engage with things because of my “let them’ mentality, when I do I take it to the private DM’s. I choose to lead with respect and work really hard to assume people don’t mean harm. I feel that approaching things this way leads to better dialogue. And if someone chooses not to agree, that’s ok, I keep it moving.

Embrace the Complexity of Humanhood
People are flawed. Sometimes good people do bad things, and sometimes bad people do good things. It is what it is. I think we need to give people more grace to fuck up and grow. Life evolves quickly, and not everyone has the same ability or access to keep up with things. Everything on the internet is so public and can haunt you forever, and sometimes I wonder if it’s healthy to have everyone's fuckups be so publicly documented. Again, this is still something I’m thinking about. Also, obviously, this isn’t a one size fits all approach.

Reality Looks Different for Everyone
Really though, everyone's world is different and is probably always changing, just like yours is. What you perceive to be reality isn’t always reality. So stop measuring people according to your reality. 

Explore Different Platforms
Each social media platform has its own culture and community. Experiment with different platforms, you might just find something you like.

Cut the Snark
You attract more bees with honey than vinegar babe.

Log Off and Go to Sleep
Babe, GO TO FUCKING SLEEP. Respectfully. If it’s too much, log the fuck off. 


That was a lot, but the world is a lot. I will say that impliminetning these practices and mindfulness around social media has made me a whole lot happier. Life seriously, infinitely happier. I can’t worry about what other people are doing, I’ve got my own goals, dreams, and changes I want. I can’t attain any of those when my energy is zapped from social media. As always, take what resonates and leave what doesn't.