How to Respectfully Engage on Social Media When Your Opinions Differ

Zach Micklea

| 3 min read

Man drinking coffee while using social media
We’ve seen it happen countless times. One of our friends posts an article or an opinion on their social media feed. Someone else adds a comment, disagreeing or agreeing with the post. Another person adds a comment disagreeing, agreeing or both. More people jump in to add their perspectives, and tempers begin to flare. 
In today’s social media climate, engaging in a virtual shouting match is all too common. Many opinions on politics, religion or social issues are more divisive than ever. How do you remain respectful of others’ opinions when they are in such direct contrast to your own?
Here are a few tips to do just that.
  1. Do not take another opinion personally. People form their opinions based on experiences and understandings. Everyone, even family members, have different opinions. Don’t become defensive because people think differently than you.
  1. Do not expect to convince another person to change their view. You can discuss issues and share viewpoints, but your goal should not be to get the other person to change their mind. Some people debate issues, expecting others to change their views, but it rarely, if ever happens. Seek to understand them, not to convince them. 
  1. Do not let emotion rule your reason. Do not let disagreements anger you. Not only do people base their opinions on experiences, but people have different personalities and goals for life. Accept another’s diverse views as you accept another’s personality.
  1. Ask yourself “how important is it?” When you are debating with those who have differing opinions, arriving at a consensus is not going to change anything. If you can realize that the friendship or relationship is much more important than the issue you are discussing, you can let the diverse opinions of others be what they are.

Effects on Mental Health

Social media platforms are designed to be addictive. By offering reinforcement with likes and comments, social media activates the brain’s reward center by releasing dopamine, the feel-good chemical linked to pleasurable activities like food and social interaction.
These platforms that make us feel good are also associated with anxiety and depression. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 70% of adults and over 80% of teens in the U.S. use social media, which puts a large portion of the population at an increased risk of feeling anxious, depressed or ill.
It is critically important to strike a balance between maintaining our social relationships and protecting our mental health. If you’re spending an excessive amount of time on social media and feelings of sadness, dissatisfaction, frustration or loneliness are impacting your life, it may be time to reexamine your online habits and find a healthier balance.

Tips on Steering Clear of Negativity

Persistent negativity in our social media feeds can be overwhelming, but there are ways to tailor your social media and filter out its negative aspects. See some tips below:
  • Monitor usage and set screen time limits on iPhone and Android.
Photo credit: katleho Seisa

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