Practice kindness, respectfulness on social media

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By Jane Ashley Pace

If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. I’ve heard my mom say this to my sisters and me more times than I can count.

Unfortunately, this is not always practiced especially in the days of social media. For some, the safety of a screen gives them the courage to speak their mind, nice or not.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for the First Amendment. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion are to me our most valuable rights. But can we exercise these rights and still be kind? A characteristic of kindness is being considerate and respectful. Can we speak our mind while remaining considerate and respectful of those that might be affected by our comments?

We’ve worked hard to grow The Oldham Era’s social media presence and more than doubled our followers in the past year. In today’s world, news is broken online. As a weekly newspaper, not all of our stories can wait until the print paper publishes.

The upside to this new digital world is that we can get news out quickly and there are more newspaper readers than before because even if they don’t subscribe they’re at least reading some stories online. Our print subscribers were up in 2018 and I strongly believe the awareness and interest driven by social media is one factor in this increase.

Another advantage is the community is more engaged in our stories and can have lively debates and discussions in the comments. Last year we had some really interesting conversations and debates on topics such as pension reform and school safety.

There’s also a downside though as many comments are anything but kind. Just a couple of weeks ago we posted what we thought were two very positive stories yet we still had some rather unkind comments made.

I know some think we enjoy posting stories that humiliate or stir up trouble but that couldn’t be further from the truth. We love this community we serve. We deliver the news, good or bad. We work diligently to get the facts straight and report the truth. Sometimes the truth is going to cause pain but to say this is done out of a spirit of meanness couldn’t be further from the truth.

I was recently asked why we don’t delete inappropriate comments made on our social media pages. Unless profanity is used we leave comments as they are posted.

Even then Facebook will usually hide the comments before we have the chance. Outside of profanity, however, if we start deleting comments that quickly becomes a slippery slope. I don’t feel that I, or any of my employees, should be deciding which comments are okay and which ones should be deleted.

You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. This is another repeated phrase from my childhood. It is very true. Kindness goes a long way. Show respect and you’ll get respect. Be kind and people are more likely to listen.

Let’s speak the truth, let’s debate the issues but let’s be considerate of each other.

Jane Ashley Pace is the publisher of The Oldham Era.