Yesterday I witnessed the piling on of someone who commented on a Facebook post by a friend of mine. It started out innocently enough… kind of, as my friend posted a graphic relating to politics. She included a one-line statement, it was pretty innocuous, but left itself open to interpretation.

That’s diet soda!

A couple people responded in agreement with what the image showed. But… wait for it… pretty soon someone else responded who wasn’t totally feeling what everyone else was saying. It wasn’t that she disagreed with the image as much as the “implication” that it meant “all” people like her… which no one had actually said.

From that point it was on (no, I didn’t participate; I’ll be coming back to that), and it wasn’t pretty. One of the people she confronted first didn’t like that she’d been confronted on something she didn’t specifically say, and her response was along the lines of being shouted down for who she was more than for what she said. After a couple of times with these women going back and forth, the lady who felt affronted called on some of her friends by name to join the “conversation”… and the beating was on!

I didn’t comment because I stopped commenting on political things a long time ago. I still comment on race and diversity issues, and of course I comment on health care (if you’re unsure why, check out my About page link up there on the left). But politics… nope. Religion… nope. However, I did check out some of the comments because I was curious on how it might be interpreted by others, expecting only a couple of comments. When the firestorm got a bit too hot, I felt for the woman trying to defend her position, then decided it was best to leave things alone.

A couple of years ago I wrote a post on my business blog titled Do You Feel Guilty By Word Association?. I talked about things that were posted innocuously that, for whatever reason, other people decided they had to have their say about, only to deal with the consequences of those actions. The thing was, none of it had anything to do with them, yet they felt compelled to defend themselves… something that happens all the time.

All of us do it at some point; social media is filled with the graves of words and thoughts that were stated innocently yet taken wrong by others. When that happens, we can either defend ourselves to no end or decide to give up the ghost and live another day; I almost always choose the latter. For more, check out this video:

Handling Social Media Faux Pas

See, even I do it! Luckily, it’s rare that I do it. That’s because most of the time I’m cognizant of how things are going to go if I jump into something without thinking about it first. Unless it’s a throwaway comment that I’m surprised anyone’s paying attention to, if I comment on a topic you can bet I’m ready for the fight… which almost never materializes. 🙂

What most people need to learn is how to stop being baited into commenting on things that people post on social media that have nothing to do with them, especially if their position is contrary to what the originator stated. I know it’s not always easy, but if you can learn to limit your participation you’ll feel a lot better mentally.

I’m here for you; thus, some tips for keeping yourself out of discussions you don’t want to be in:

1. If you read something that bothers you, give yourself at least 30 seconds to process it. The worst confrontations happen when people immediately respond to something without thinking about it first.

2. If the person who’s irking you is someone you know, maybe you should think about knowing them. Yeah, that’s a bit harsh, but we both know that everyone you know isn’t necessarily someone you like. It could cost you some personal capital if you put someone you know on blast in the open. If you’re willing, it’s fine. If not, you have lots of options.

3. If the person getting on your nerves is someone you don’t know, take some time looking at what others have said to the person. It’s possible that what you have to say has already been said, which means you can leave it alone.

4. If you feel you have to say something, come at it from a different direction that puts them on the defense. An example here would be when I decided to challenge a guy who’d said some things about Serena Williams, to the extent that he’d shown up on Sports Illustrated. I checked out his Twitter feed, then baited him (yup, I did that lol) with one line… and he responded. He thought I was going to come at him the same way everyone else did; instead, I debated him about ethics, which turns out to be something he wasn’t prepared for… and failed miserably at. 🙂

5. Think about your reason for wanting to say something. Are you hoping to change someone’s mind (which rarely happens) or are you in the mood to vent? If it’s the first, make sure your opening statement is solid and non-confrontational. If it’s the second… don’t be a Homer. lol It never ends well.

6. Don’t be a rebel without a cause. By this, I mean don’t get riled at everything across the board that sets you off. Decide what really bothers you based on how it might affect you and leave everything else alone. I comment on racial issues because I’m black (in case the picture confused you lol), and I comment on issues regarding “ism’s” of all types because I speak and write about diversity issues. I talk about health care because… did you check that About page?

7. Think about your own peace and happiness. Will getting into an argument over something bring you either of those things? Is it important enough that it has to be said? Or can you step away, knowing deep inside that someone else will take up the mantle and let you stay calm for another day?

That’s all I’ve got. If you still get into trouble, don’t blame me! 🙂

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