Is There a Need for Civility in Social Media?

Over the past few months I have found myself discouraged and frustrated by the barrage of social media attacks against people who hold differing opinions. Whether it is religious or political differences (these seem to be the most common right now), there seems to be no shortage of people who are ready to criticize, condemn, and even verbally attack those with opposing views.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a defender of our first amendment right to free speech. I’m not opposed to someone expressing their view, even if they are passionate about their view and it is different from my own. What I am opposed to is their lack of civility.

During a recent informal poll, I asked the question “do you think people are mean on the internet?” The overwhelming response was “YES.” Here are the top three reasons (direct and indirect) people are perceived mean on the internet.

  1. People feel less inhibited to speak their mind because they are staring at a computer screen and not into the eyes of another individual. Therefore, it is easier for people to post what they really think.
  2. As with any written communication there’s a higher chance of miscommunication because the reader doesn’t have the benefit of non-verbal communication, which can completely change the tone of the message.
  3. We tend to take more time crafting an email that will go out to five people than our brief, top-of-mind posts that go out to hundreds of people.

I must admit that it concerns me as I see people becoming more and more intolerant with others. I find social media posts that include hateful name-calling, vulgar language, and insulting and demeaning content offensive. While social media gives us a glimpse into the conversations being held in living rooms of families across America, some things are just better left there – not spewed in a public venue, but kept in the privacy of their own homes.

Am I the only one that feels this way?

I have always prided myself in treating others with the utmost respect, despite the fact we may have varying opinions or beliefs. I don’t feel the need to belittle them or make them feel less of a person because they don’t believe the way I do. After all, I don’t believe you can demand, bully, or punish people into agreeing with you.

Maybe it was how I was raised. After all, my parents would ask me “If Susie decided to ‘x’ (you can fill in the blank), would you do it too?” Of course not! That question helped me understand that Susie and I didn’t always think alike … and that was okay.

Maybe it was because of the religious influences in my life. I must confess. I had a drug problem when I was child. My parents drug me to church every Sunday morning, Sunday night, Tuesday night, and Saturday night, whether I wanted to or not. It was there that my values of hope, faith, happiness, passion, family, God, and my love for humanity (regardless of race, status, religion, or political party) was rooted and developed.

Since the lack of social media civility has been a sore spot for me recently, I began tossing around the idea of a Social Media Civility Challenge. While I could create my own set of guidelines to post by, I thought it would be exciting if the Social Media Civility Challenge became a collaborative effort.

Will you help me write it? This could be fun!

To contribute to the Social Media Civility Challenge, in 12 words or less what specific commitment(s) or declaration(s) would help someone express their beliefs, while also engaging in a dialogue that is effective and respectful to others?

Simply submit your contributions by posting your comments below, post your comments on the StrengthsBuilders Facebook page or LinkedIn post, or by emailing me at ValeriePlis @

I really hope you will join me in creating the first Social Media Civility Challenge. Your contributions will be noted in my next blog post!

Stay tuned for the finished product!

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