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Put a more positive spin on negativity

Social media platforms are reporting an increase in daily active users over the last few weeks. As the pandemic and stay-at-home orders linger, it’s easy to understand why.

We want immediate information about this new world we’re living in almost as much as we crave connections with our friends, families, co-workers and peers. There’s really no better place to get both right now than through our favorite social channels.

While we’re sharing on Facebook, Twitter or some other social soup du jour, it’s easy to forget that we’re expanding our profiles. We’re influencing others, leaving lasting impressions, and (sometimes) perpetuating negativity.

“During this crisis, your social media image is the last thing you’re probably worried about,” said Catherine Bosley, an online advocate, journalist and national speaker. “There’s plenty of reason to put more thought into what we’re posting now.”

Bosley offers tips to follow when reviewing our social media actions.

“Pause before you post,” Bosley said. “Make a draft of what you want to say or how you want to respond. Set it aside for an hour or so, then go back and re-read it. If it still feels right, reasonable, logical, and it can’t be taken out of context, then go ahead and post it.”

If what you want to post is based on some emotional response to a news story or another user, you’ll likely edit it or delete it altogether if you wait before you post.

“Ask one important question,” Bosley said. “What kind of vulnerability will you reveal that could call your character into question?” She notes that if you express too much anger or fear, that might be interpreted negatively by your friends and followers.

Remember to be mindful of the words you choose. “If your words are too strong, there’s a good chance your emotions are running too high to share publicly and can be misinterpreted or taken out of context by others,” Bosley added.

It’s also important to think about intention. If what you’re saying is intended to hurt, insult or rile someone else, reconsider your post.

“Even if they deserve it, and we all know people who deserve it, you don’t want to be the person who stoops to their level,” Bosley said. “It could be easy to go even lower than them if you’re riled up enough.”

Bosley suggests cutting all the negativity from our posts.

“What you’re saying or posting could incite fear, more anger and other negative reactions,” she said. “There’s so much of that right now, and we need to be careful not to be lumped in as one of those negative people.”

So if you really want to post something, make it something positive. While it might not be easy, try putting a positive spin on negative.

“What a fantastic chance we all have right now to put our goodness out there,” Bosley said. “Just as it’s so dangerous to go negative on social media, or anywhere digitally, it’s also incredibly rewarding to turn it around.”

She encourages us all to reach out, whether through social media or a simple text, with gestures of kindness, even if it’s just a smiley face emoji.

Read more tips and strategies for surviving online on her blog at www.catherinebosley.com.

Dr. Adam Earnheardt is chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn and on his blog at www.adamearn.com.

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