If you participate in groups on Facebook, or elsewhere, you’ve no doubt seen some conversations go off the rails. In some cases folks are so turned off, they leave the group or members are kicked out.
I’ve been involved in online communities for the past decade and I’ve been on both ends of digital confrontation. Fortunately, I’ve learned a lot since the early days. In the groups I moderate these days there are pretty clear guidelines. As a result, for the most part, trouble usually is averted, but not always and not easily.
Whether you’re a member or a moderator, there are strategies you can implement to help ensure conversations don’t turn off others in the group. Not everyone agrees with my strategies and beliefs but they can serve as a good starting point and resource for conversation.
- Know what “you” stand for
Know your beliefs and what you stand for. Let that guide your engagement and/or your moderation. For me that means inviting others who may not share my beliefs or values into conversations and engaging with them respectfully. It means providing a place where free speech is welcomed.
- Know what the “group” stands for
Every group, page, or site has a purpose...something it stands for. Know what that is and ensure you are contributing in ways that are support the group. If you or someone else is not, point that out. You may need to reach out to a moderator. If you are the moderator, even if you are not, you can ask the person posting how what they are saying aligns and if it doesn’t, ask them to consider removing what they said. Empowering members to be mindful independently is better than having someone do it for them.
- With a little help from my friends
Situations may come up that are uncomfortable or confusing. Remember. You are not alone. Think about who you can turn to for guidance and advice. This could be someone you know who has experience in the area or just someone who has good insights in interpersonal relationships and group dynamics in general. Try to get more than one opinion if possible.
- Commenting “Turn Off”
Did you know that as a member you can turn off commenting to a post you have shared and a moderator can turn off commenting to any post? There are times you may want to do this such as when a thread becomes repetitive and/or hard to follow. Here is how to do that and an example of what you might write.
How to turn off commenting
An example of how you might explain it in a group:
When someone is speaking in a way that is not in alignment with the group’s purpose, attacking others, being rude or disrespectful, whether or not you are the moderator, jump in and politely try to help get the conversation on track. A conversation can go off the rails pretty quickly, but all it takes is a village (or in this case community) to help keep conversations in a positive and useful direction.
- Be a role model
Whether you’re a member or moderator in an online space, others are watching. This is especially important to keep in mind if you are an educator. How can you engage in respectful, yet critical, discourse? How do you help the conversation remain productive? How are you checking facts and citing evidence? These are all things to keep in mind when serving as a model to young students, friends, and family.
What do you think? Are any of these ideas helpful or ones that you’ve tried? What’s worked? What hasn’t? What have your good and bad experiences been when sharing online? Please share your thoughts.