Online Activist Etiquette

By, Aaron Keen

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In a time when our nation is more polarized than ever, it is important to know how to have civil conversations and dialogue with those who are different than us. This is especially so for social media activists. In the digital age, sitting behind a keyboard we have become more emboldened to voice our opinions even to the point of cyberbullying. As activists for positive social change we as a society must be better than that.

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Neal Schaffer from Maximize Social Business says, “Inexplicably, people seem to forget the ‘social’ part of ‘social media’, leading to rude comments, thoughtless actions, or spamming.” When interacting with dissenting comments on social media it is important that advocacy organizations remain professional and positive. Internet trolls, someone who deliberately posts offensive comments on your page, will want to make your organization look bad and discredit it. One thing you should not do is delete the comments. Doing so will only make your activist group seem unwilling to have dialogue with those who have opposing views. If they start to attack you, your supporters will step in and defend your organization. That, in turn, will reflect good upon you. The only time you should ever delete comments is when they are vulgar or explicit.

Online activist etiquette doesn’t just apply to those with different views, but also to your supporters. In fighting for change you must not forget the humanity of those who are fighting with your organization. You should genuinely engage with those who comment and private message your organizations, especially when they are thanking you or asking how they can help your cause. Buffer Social notes some great ways to do that by responding with questions, images and emojis. Those positive online interactions will only cause people to want to support the cause you are fighting for.

Asking for donations and self-promotion 24/7 can leave a bad taste in your supporters’ mouth and even donor fatigue. According to Thrivehive, only 20 percent of your content should be about this. The other 80 percent should be sharing relevant posts about the social cause you are fighting for. Sharing more information about the issues, such as personal stories, stats and injustices around your cause will only help to show the passion and authenticity of your activist group.  

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Being an activist on social media can be challenging at times. Balancing diplomacy while standing up for what we believe in requires critical thinking and effort. However, when you see support for your cause grow and bring about change it will be worth it. In the words of one of the most influential women of our time, Michelle Obama, “When they go low, we go high.”