I noticed something the other day while scrolling through my LinkedIn newsfeed. A LinkedIn member published a post on how LinkedIn should be used as a professional social platform, not a dating site where you can flirt with the other members. A connection of mine made a rather ruthless comment underneath this post (and I paraphrase here):
“Everyone gets hit on. Just ignore them and deal with it. Stop acting like the whole Internet is hitting on you.”
That’s a pretty negative comment, I thought. And I moved on.
Yet I couldn’t shake it off. What bothered me was not what the LinkedIn member published, but what my connection had to say in the comments section.
Free speech is a big thing we like to exercise on the Internet. If we have something to say, now we have a platform where we can express our thoughts, be it a tweet, an article comment or a blog post.
But free speech also means exercising when and how to use it. In other words, when to speak and when to shut up.
The Internet has become a battleground of getting even. We go out of our way to “school” someone’s thoughts and to shame someone for publishing digital content—all in the name of “winning.”
Fact: You can’t “win” the Internet.
And it’s not just people. Many companies build their brand platform on using a voice that’s negative, forceful and intense. These companies attract negative press, negative followers and a whole lot of negative energy full of anger, sadness, resentment and contempt.
True, you can have an online discussion where you calmly present your side to an argument without resorting to cutthroat name-calling. And you can professionally disagree with someone’s writing without blowing up.
I thank you for your maturity. Sadly, that’s not why I’m writing this blog post.
When you respond to a person or a company’s digital content negatively, it doesn’t reflect negatively on that person or company. It reflects negatively on you.
Let’s look at the LinkedIn scenario again. My connection had three choices after reading the LinkedIn member’s post:
- Don’t respond
- Respond kindly
- Respond unkindly
If and how to respond is always your choice. My connection could have stated that s/he understands the poster’s point of view and suggested that the best way to ward off unwanted attention is to simply ignore it.
But, as you read above, that’s not how s/he responded.
We can blame the heat of the moment for our less-than-choice words. And we can argue that the Internet is about responding in real time.
At the end of the day, that’s not a good enough argument.
It all boils down to intention. Did you mean to be nice? Or did you mean to be mean?
I have to ask: Why are you choosing to be mean? Why do you want to be perceived as a bully? Why do you feel good putting negative energy out into the world?
The good news is that you can change your behavior. You can look within and ask why you want to respond negatively to people. You can choose to think before you hit reply.
And you can start today.
Don’t be shy to comment! What do you think negative comments really say? Share your thoughts below.