Social media sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter are hugely popular among youth and adults across America. Unfortunately, they are also increasingly becoming a site for hate speech and degrading language.
Even when we may not personally type such inappropriate language, the ability of friends and other visitors to post such material on our pages presents an awkward situation for us all. The following are some helpful guidelines for preventing hate on Facebook and other social media sites.
Post by Example
If you don’t want hate speech on your site, don’t use hate speech yourself. Before posting, consider the impact of your words and whether you would feel as comfortable using the same language in a classroom, office or at a dinner party. The Internet offers a false sense of separation from “real life,” but the reality is that a few poorly chosen words on line can instantly change your networks’ impression of you. By posting, you also invite others to respond and suddenly what you might have written in a moment of frustration or as “a joke” escalates into something more serious for which you are responsible. Stop the cycle of hate by not starting it in the first place.
Reply by Example
If your friend posts a message that you are concerned is biased or degrading, post a comment and follow up with a private message. Do not attack your friend. Instead, in the comment, find a polite way to point out how you disagree with their word choices. A public post sends a message to people who were hurt by the comment that you support them, as well as offering other users the courage to speak up, or in this case, “post up.” Next, follow up with a longer email to your friend addressing the language they used and why it made you uncomfortable and some of their unintended consequences.
Focus on Issues not Identities
Addressing hate speech on-line does not mean that friends cannot disagree. Facebook and other social media sites are great tools for discussing public policy and other social issues. This said, help your friends keep conversations focused on the issues, rather than on peoples’ identities. For example, friends can have lively discussions about marriage equality or immigration without using degrading slurs against the GLBT community or people of different nationalities. If users continue to use derogatory language, excuse yourself from the conversation and note that you will continue when the language is more respectful.
Start a Three Strikes Policy
If a friend posts language on your page that makes you uncomfortable, publicly post how you do not welcome such speech and feel free to remove their comment. Next, send a message to the individual addressing the language. If they continue to post inappropriate material on your site, warn your friend that you will have to remove them from your network if they do not stop because their language is a reflection on you and you do not support hate speech. If they still continue, remove them from your list. Friends don’t let friends promote hate.