Ranting on social media isn’t only ineffective, but inappropriate

Rarely do any of us, when updating our statuses or composing a new tweet, take the time to go over our dialogue and edit — and I’m not talking about making sure you’ve used the correct “there.”

Rather, editing for bigotry, insensitivity, and just plain offensive content is often an afterthought, if the status or tweet receives any attention at all.

Unfortunately, sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are optimized for users’ convenience, making it easier to share thoughts and feelings online in the spur of the moment. This convenience, however, comes at a price. In our hasty posting, we don’t realize the often negative repercussions these comments can have in the future.

Take for instance former Sportsnet commentator Damian Goddard, who was fired after tweeting his opposition to same-sex marriage. Or, more recently, Jian Ghomeshi’s infamous Facebook post, where he detailed his firing from CBC due to his less than “palatable tastes in the bedroom.” With over 100,000 “likes” and more than 38,000 comments, Ghomeshi’s post catalyzed the online community to throw in their two cents over social media as to whether or not the CBC was justified in firing the radio host. 

The point is, when posting your opinions on social media, especially when responding to sensitive issues like sexual assault in the case of Ghomeshi, you have to base your comments on facts — something many people forgo in their haste to comment. 

Without facts, it’s hard to form a respectable or informed opinion on a subject, as you have no evidence to back it up. When you rant in a tweet or status update, you come across as biased, or worse.

Rants have the habit of coming off as spontaneous and emotionally charged, making them unsuitable media for voicing your opinion. The use of all caps, emojis, interrobangs, and expletives has the effect of delegitimizing an argument. Rants are the domain of amateurs and are fraught with issues of credibility and honesty. 

This isn’t a condemnation of those who post their opinions on social media; in fact, I absolutely encourage people to voice their opinions via these networks. When done properly, an educated, well thought-out opinion is able to spark critical debate about important issues. However, these kinds of debates are rarely initiated and usually give way to senseless and barbed opining lacking real information. 

Before posting that rant on social media, take a few seconds to consider three cardinal rules of the Internet. The first, whatever you post is fair game for the public. Second, your online posts can be used against you — employers frequent social media sites in the hiring process. Last, but not least, if you post something particularly bigoted or inflammatory, it can, and will, go viral. So if you’re about to tweet or post, make sure you think before you click. 

Emma Kikulis is an associate comment editor at The Varsity. She is studying sociology and English.

  Despite the prevalence of spontaneous comment, there is good debate taking place online

In the day and age of the Internet, where news is only a few clicks away, it follows that debate is just as easily accessible, especially on social media. 

Of particular timeliness to this topic is the case of Jian Ghomeshi, who has recently been accused of abusing several women, resulting in his dismissal from the CBC. The circumstances of Ghomeshi’s conduct and subsequent firing have been discussed ad nauseam online with voices from all sides chiming in over social media. 

But is Facebook or Twitter the right place to condemn someone like Ghomeshi as the ultimate scum of the earth or to cast aspersions on his accusers? The Internet has gained a reputation for being a cesspool of social commentary, and yet, believe it or not, there is actually worthwhile debate taking place in some corners. 

There is a marked difference in the conduct and tone of online discussions depending on where you look. 

Sites like Twitter and Facebook cannot be relied upon for informed or well-researched commentary, but there is often insight and substance to the debates taking place on sites like Reddit.  

Many of the top-rated comments surrounding Ghomeshi-gate on Reddit reflect honest beffudlement over a lack of useful information. Whereas others hastily took to tweeting and posting their unsolicited opinions, Reddit users would seem to be less quick to jump the gun with their thoughts. 

This is not to say that the Reddit community isn’t weighing in on contemporary debates and social issues. There are well-informed positions on a wide range of topics from many of the site’s users, something other sites lack entirely. 

If you search through Facebook and Twitter, you may also find some of your friends or some of the people you follow are able to have balanced discussions on the topic. 

There is some degree of exaggeration in calling posts on Twitter and Facebook useless. Sure, we all have those Facebook friends that post ridiculous and  misinformed commentary — but we also have several friends who are open to serious discussions. While my experience may not be representative of all posts on sites like Facebook and Twitter, it does prove that there is room for effective debate through social media.

Aside from the comment sections on online articles, there is no way to comment directly on the news, and there is still no easy way of directly refuting the source of information. On social media, there is room for dynamic arguments complete with solid points and counterpoints that may just shift your opinion. 

Hopefully, an increase in accountability will encourage users to do their research.

Simon Spichak is a second-year student at New College studying neuroscience.