Now my regular advocates and fans will immediately say "You've already written a post about how to think before you respond, Alice!". And yes, it is one of my cornerstone posts, and definitely worth checking out!
But I came across the acronym THINK which I just had to share in this infographic:
And here's some code you could paste into your own posts (via the text mode) if you want to share this Infographic with your readers.
As it shows this concept very clearly and simply.
T – is it true?
Social media thrives on sensationalism. As so do many online newspapers, with their click bait headlines designed to attract attention from a browsing audience. They feed on the FOMO (fear of missing out) factor triggered by people's imaginations they have inadequate lives which desperately need improving.
What you read, in turn, affects how you think and perceive the world. I know someone who believes everything she reads on social media, and blindly shares it on her Facebook newsfeed, regardless of whether it is true or not. This also influences her attitude to important subjects such as COVID vaccinations and animal welfare.
This practice of having to share anything which catches your eye, solely because it interests you, could have an adverse effect. Either you will spread the misinformation the original spammers wished for, or you will seriously annoy your friends who recognise it as trash and not worth the light of day.
So, the first thing you think before you respond is, how truthful is your comment? Does it have any evidence or professional proof to back it up? If this is your own opinion, where did you get the facts from? My post on feelings are not the same as facts could also help you.
H – is it helpful?
My posts have often referred to the importance of helping others. This will set your comments apart from those who focus purely on themselves, a common trait on social media. Our innate preservation for looking after ourselves naturally comes to the fore, so any alternative will easily set your contributions apart.
People are constantly looking for solutions, even without necessarily knowing what the problems are. A comment which offers an answer which resonates with an underlying question is much more likely to get noticed. Again referring to FOMO, a bright spark in the darkness could easily be latched onto.
The second things you think before you respond is: will your comment be helpful without causing extra trouble? Are you able to offer tangible information others could easily implement to improve their lives? Is what you're going to say relevant to the subject and respectful to whoever reads it?
So many comments flying around social media, and even blogs, are worthless and a waste of space and effort. And yet so many are generated, every second of every day. You certainly don't need to add any more to them.
I – is it inspiring?
As I mentioned before, there are a lot of rubbish comments on social media. Many of these are part of conversations, which, in a way, is a good thing. This is an excellent medium for interaction and engagement, which I thoroughly condone, but most of this isn't what you would call inspiring.
It is so easy to rattle something off in reply with little thought. It's like a compulsive reaction. Something pops into your brain and you have to share it. With the ability to immediately implement this on your phone, thumbs flying, you've submitted it before you've realised it.
But along with being helpful, and necessary which we will discuss next, what purpose did your comment have? What did you actually gain from this action? Did you make someone feel better when they were down? Will the encouragement you delivered be well received?
The third thing to think before you respond is: how inspired will the recipient be from my comment? Will it have the desired effect? What can you do to create a good enough impression to get noticed above all the other dross? And will it make an actual difference?
N – is it necessary?
Make things easier to do, and more will be done because of it. It's a bit like motorways: open up an extra lane and soon the rush-hour will spread itself over all four lanes. Unfortunately without lessening the congestion or the amount of cars on the road at any one time.
Real-time social media provides the instant benefit of immediate replies. As a result conversations are bitty, disjointed, spontaneous, created with little thought or reason, just because it is possible. There are no hindrances or barriers to prevent you from replying as soon as you have read a post.
However, the fourth thing to think before your respond is: how important is it I reply right now? Could this be something which could wait? Would the conversation benefit more if I took time out to consider a proper answer? How has this post affected me, and am I in control?
This is particularly so if your mood has changed because of the post. Never respond in anger or if you are upset; you will only regret it afterwards. If you think an answer is necessary, offer a polite acknowledgement their post has been received, informing them when you will reply at a later date.
K – is it kind?
There is plenty of cruel and malicious commenting throughout the web. Some of it happens unintentionally, usually due to lack of thought. Some of it is a result of sad individuals who get their kicks out of being nasty. And some are generated by professionals, paid to cause as much trouble as possible.
Unfortunately the human race automatically gravitates towards the worst scenarios. It is a throwback from living in caves, where survival of the fittest meant defending yourself against uncomfortable conditions. And if being horrible helped you to live another day, so be it!
Taking time out to think before you respond allows you to choose the most appropriate words or phrases to suit the situation. Sometimes a more delicate approach, taking into consideration the other's point of view, would serve you in better stead than blurting out the first thing that comes to mind.
And if you prefer people to be nice to you, be kind back! Being polite and forthcoming, even to unfortunate comments, can help ease a tense standpoint. Always being positive, compassionate and empathetic when you reply to a post can certainly go a long way!
Are you ready to think before you respond?
I know it is difficult to change a life-time of spontaneous activities. This does depend upon how impetuous you are towards people, situations, concepts and information you read or find on the web. Maybe an extroverted commenter would find it more difficult to adapt.
But if you are willing, and able, to conform by stopping to think before you respond, the world would slowly start to become a better place. Less misunderstandings, less nastiness, less spamming, less being blocked as a troll.
As a result there will be more benevolence towards each other, more altruism towards helping each other, and more regulation of conversations and messages received within real-time. This means less of a need for moderation to check against unsuitable comments as well.
Let me know in the comments below your thoughts about stopping to think before you respond to posts and messages you receive. Also if you have any relevant stories or scenarios you would like to relate, we would love to hear from you.