When shade can be thrown in any comments section, and subtweeting someone seems to be the only way to get stuff off your chest, it can seem like being negative online is a pretty common thing. The thing is, a lot of people don’t realise that the kind of negativity that they take part in online can actually be called cyberbullying, and can get serious.
1 in 3 people have been cyberbullied at some point in their lifetimes, and we are not into that. We do know though that sometimes it can feel easy to do it, like it’s the only way to express yourself, or like it won’t matter. That’s why we have come up with a little checklist of things to think about before you post something negative online, so that hopefully next time you think about doing it, you will make a cup of tea instead.
1) Why are you posting it?
Have a think about why you are posting it. Is it to take part in healthy debate and conversation or is it just to hurt someone’s feelings? A good idea is to write a list of as many reasons as you can think of why you feel the need to do it, and a list of reasons why you shouldn’t. Seeing it all written down might give you a bit of perspective on the situation. Plus, the chances are, you won’t be able to come up with that many reasons why you should.
2) How are you saying it?
We can all say stuff from time to time that comes across badly when we didn’t mean it to. Especially because we can’t really convey tone on the internet, and a lot of sarcasm, irony or even humour may get lost and taken the wrong way. Before tapping that send button it’s always a good shout to give your comment or message a read through and make sure you aren’t accidentally saying something you don’t mean.
3) Can the person you are posting it to/about do anything about it?
Is it a conversation that they can be a part of, offer their side of the story or defend themselves against any allegations that might get made? Imagine if you heard that all this stuff was being said against you behind your back, and you had no way of trying to solve the situation and make things right. It would totally suck, and would probably feel pretty unfair.
4) Would you say it to their face?
A big reason why we all find it easy to say negative stuff online is because we can do it from behind a screen, and it is way easier to type insults or rumours than it is to actually say them out loud. Always think if you would feel comfortable saying something to someone’s face before typing it out on your phone and hitting send.
Plus, even though it might seem like it can be easy to be anonymous on social media, everything that you put out there is staying there until you take it down for the most part, and there is absolutely no guarantee it will stay anonymous forever. There is always going to be the possibility that you get in trouble for it somewhere down the line, or affect your career, relationships, school records and in the most serious of cases, could land you in trouble with the law. Not chill, huh?
5) How do you feel right now?
If you are thinking about saying something mean or negative online to or about someone, it might be a good idea to check in with yourself first. It might be that there is something going on with you that you didn’t even realise was making you want to behave this way. If there is, try talking to a trusted family member or friend about it first.
Usually, when we feel like posting something negative it is because we are already feeling a bit rubbish ourselves. If you don’t feel like you have someone to talk to about what’s going on with you right now, you can always talk to us. Reach out to the Ditch the Label Community here, and we will listen to you no matter what.
6) How do you think it will make you feel afterwards?
So, it’s actually a proven thing that the more we think negatively about other people, the more we beat ourselves up too. The chances are, you won’t actually be feeling that great about yourself after you’ve commented or slid into someone’s DMs with something mean. Reprogramming your thoughts into nice ones is a great way to stop your brain in its tracks, and will actually help you to think more positively about yourself.
Grab a pen and paper and write whatever the negative thing is that you want to send. Then underneath it, write a reason why you shouldn’t, how it might make the other person feel, or something nice instead. Seeing this written out in front of you in your own handwriting might help you to see why it isn’t the best idea. By writing something nice instead, you might be able to see how being kinder is easier and how it even makes you feel better.
7) Is it because they are famous/an influencer etc?
Just because someone is famous or has loads of followers, doesn’t mean they won’t care what is said about them. They are humans too with feelings and emotions, and families and lives that might be affected by what you say. It can be super easy to forget that when they seem to only exist on Instagram or in tabloids, but they aren’t immune to feeling bad. Check out this piece with influencer @foodfitnessflora about how negativity has changed her life.
8) How will it affect their lives?
There’s a good chance that whatever you say will have an actual impact on someone’s life. We know it might not seem like it when there is a screen and probably hundreds or maybe even thousands of miles between you, but whatever gets put out into the universe has the power to make waves and to damage someone’s life, career or relationship beyond repair.
9) How would it affect you if you were on the receiving end?
OK, so we know this is the kind of thing your teacher or your Mum used to say when they wanted to prove a point, but actually feeling empathy for other people is super important before you decide to say or send something negative online.
If those notifications came popping up on your screen, the chances are you would feel a bit crap about the whole thing.
If you want to talk to someone about online bullying or harassment, you can reach out to the Ditch the Label Community here.