Tips for Avoiding Negativity Online from BYU's Social Media Manager
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Jon McBride looking at his phone in disbelief.
Tired of negativity online? BYU social- media expert Jon McBride, who won the 2019 eduWeb Summit Award for Industry Excellence, has some ideas. Photo by Bradley Slade

For eight years Jonathan D. McBride (’05) oversaw BYU’s official social-media accounts. In today’s divisive online climate, McBride, recently named associate athletic director for communications and media strategy, shares tips on how to avoid negativity and engage with grace and empathy on social media.

How do you respond to negative comments on BYU’s social-media accounts?

A: BYU’s policy is to delete hate speech, personal attacks, or vulgar language—but there’s a lot of nuance beyond that. We handle general negativity or outrage by asking ourselves, “Is this person open to having a productive conversation?” If not, we don’t respond. The rule of thumb is to never feed the trolls.

Sometimes, when there’s a lot of engagement, we will respond to one comment by saying something like, “We understand you have strong feelings, and this is why the university is doing this.” A quick response, carefully worded, can send a signal to the rest of our audience.

How can we deal with negativity in our own feeds?

A: If the negativity is wearing on you, step back. Follow positive accounts, unfollow others, and mute or hide people. Taking care of mental health is important.

Find ways to use social media where you are acting and not being acted upon. If you’re just endlessly doom scrolling, you’re going to feel bad. But BYU research shows that if you are intentional, using social-media tools to connect can have a positive effect.

How can we “disagree without being disagreeable” online?

A: Don’t respond to comments while you’re angry or feeling your heart racing. Type something up in a word processor and give yourself time. Then come back to it again, asking yourself, “Would I say this to someone’s face?” Be intentional about responding with empathy and looking at people as human beings. Giving people grace goes a long way.