Editorial: Is civility lacking on social media, or society in general?

Lisa Yates @Lisa_editor

In the years that I've had a Facebook account I've only had to "de-friend" one person for abusive behavior.

It was years ago, so I don't recall all of the details. I do recall it started out sharing opinions on some current event. One guy stated his opinions, I stated my opinions and another Facebook friend shared hers. That's what social media is all about – inviting questions, posting comments and sharing ideas – especially ideas that challenge us.

The conversation became abusive when the so-called "gentleman" called my friend a nasty name online.

Before "de-friending" this guy, I told him I would not tolerate any type of abusive behavior on my Facebook wall. He argued back against my decision, saying I did not respect his opinion. I restated my reason for letting him go, telling him I respected his opinions, but not his name-calling.

I told him I had ignored the condensing tone of his posts, but I would not stand for personal attacks or name-calling. After all, would he do that in a face-to-face conversation? I hope not.

All kinds of folks post on my personal Facebook wall. Many of whom I disagree with politically; however, I respect their right to their opinion. Fortunately, most of us feel the same way about healthy – and even humorous - debate. That's the way people behave in civil society.

A few of my friends have had to post messages on their walls reminding folks to "play nice" when it comes to sharing comments. A couple of them told me they've also had to "de-friend" the violators. I know others who refuse to join Facebook because of the nasty comments.

I have to admit, I'm getting fed up with people abusing social media.

We at the newspaper get our share of wisecracks, too. Why can't a person reply in kind to the tone of the post?

Sure we invite comments and questions. It's listening to the problems, challenges and ideas of citizens that helps organizations such as ours know where to focus our efforts. But snide remarks in response to serious posts are inappropriate and lacking in good taste. In fact, it's a form of cyber-bullying.

So I have to ask: Is civility lacking on social media, or society in general?

My rule for posting on Facebook and for writing emails - for using any electronic communications - is simply this: I follow the Golden Rule. If I don't have anything constructive to add to a comment, I don't chime in – especially on a business website. That would be inappropriate and more than that - unkind.

Of course I have my moments and say things I regret. When I hurt someone, I apologize and try to do better next time. That's the way I was raised.

Typing away at a computer, tablet or smart phone provides a sense of disconnect in a conversation. Throw in a screen name, and it's easy for people to say whatever they want - especially because their identity is concealed. Maybe it takes away a sense of accountability. I don't know.

These are issues we have to discuss in this digital age, especially with recent mass killings and suicides. I believe bad behavior contributes to this.

I want to hear what you have to say on this issue. Do you have stories of people behaving badly on your Facebook wall, or sending inappropriate emails?

If so, drop me an email at editor@weeklycitizen.com and tell me your story. I may mention in this column.

Lisa Yates is the editor of Gonzales Weekly Citizen. Follow her on Twitter @Lisa_editor.