I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook groups.  On one hand, I’m beyond amazed at how the power of a social networking site can bring so many people together to learn from each other and share their experiences but on the other hand, I’m equally as baffled with the manoteny of the questions asked and the questionable phrasings and responses that leave you with a feeling of distrust.  Are people purposely trolling?  Looking for an argument?  Or do they lack the ability to understand how their wording may be perceived?  How can you communicate effectively on Facebook groups to make it an efficient and positive place for all involved?

While I may only be approaching my 3rd decade on this planet, I have learned quite a few valuable lifeskills during my stay here on the blue orb and one of them I’ll be sharing with you today: effective communication – specifically when using electronic media.

1.  Use the search function.  I’ve seen a lot of questions asked repetedly in facebook groups and many times the original poster (OP) won’t get responses because people are tired of answering that question.  When you’re on your desktop, Facebook groups have a search function in the top right hand side under the cover photo.  When asking a question, start with the search box – there’s a very good chance (especially in large groups) that someone has posed your exact question and the community has already provided plenty of info on the matter.

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2.  Understand that not everyone is going to share your perspective.  We all disagree; in our personals lives and in our professional lives.  Some people may prefer ketchup on their hotdogs, others may prefer mustard.  Some people are Canon shooters while others are Nikon.  When you happen to disagree with someone; however, the key is to respectfully disagree.  By no means is it ever okay to make someone feel like less of a person (or a professional) for the decision they made – even if you disagree with them.

3.  Be aware of your wording.  Sometimes the way something is worded can make the original reader misinterpret the original intent of the post.  While you can’t control how someone interprets a situation, you can control which words you use and avoid using words that have a higher risk of being misinterpreted.  It should be everyone’s goal to keep online communities as peaceful as possible!

Speak of only yourself; do not generalize and use terms like “everyone” or “all of us” as this may make others feel like you are instilling your opinions on them.  Try not to reference the OP, instead respond with “I feel…” and as mentioned above, make it about yourself.  Referencing others (actively or passively) can be interpreted as aggressive.  Often the use of slang or even emoticons can be the cause of misinterpretation; does that winky face mean you’re kidding or actually teasing (with a mean intention)?  Write slowly, think about your wording, and always re-read before submitting.  Remember: once something is out there on the internet, it isn’t going to go away – even if you think you deleted it.

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4.  It’s not your personal soap box.  Facebook groups should be a place for people to connect, share ideas and grow together.  If all you want to do is post about your latest accomplishments or try to get more followers on your page then you’re in the group for the wrong reasons.  If you active engage in the group, those who appreciate your advice and insight will find your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/G+ and follow you.

5.  Read (and write) the original post carefully.  If you’re responding to an OP, make sure to really read their post carefully as they have may included detail in the post that is crucial to how you should respond.  If the OP has written something that is unclear, ask for clarification before making assumptions.  In online groups, people from all over the world connect and English may not be everyone’s native language.  If you’re writing a post, stick to one topic and try to explain yourself as clearly as possible.  Combining multiple issues or concerns into one post is like trying to have a conversation about multiple topics at the same time – it’s next to impossible!

6.  Read the comments before replying.  Commenting on a post is the same as being in a conversation.  If you want to be a part of a conversation, you need to be truly present for that conversation in order to be a productive part of said conversation.  By reading a post and simply answering without taking the time to read previous comments not only shows a lack of respect for those who are actively engaging with each other during comments but also for the OP as you’ve chosen not to familiarize yourself with any of the additional details that may have been discussed in the comments.  You wouldn’t walk up to a group of people who have having a conversation (that you overheard), say something to the group and then walk away, would you?  Online communication should be treated with the same respect that in-person communication is.

7.  If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.  This one is pretty self-explanatory.

Facebook groups and online forums will always be, to some extend, organized chaos.  While there are ways a user can increase positivity and productivity in their own experience, by using the search function and expressing themselves clearly, those who are interacting with OP’s can also contribute to making online communities a better place for all.