Hughes PR

The digital playground – when does expressing an opinion become cyberbullying?

Belinda Scott writes…

Firstly, this is not a blog post about a personal stance on the Goodes debate currently dominating TV discussions, talk back radio and social media platforms. As a professional Digital Consultant it’s simply an observation from a bird’s-eye view of some rather heated conversations unfolding online.

Everyone has the right to an opinion whether face-to-face, writing a letter to the editor or sharing a news article on a personal Facebook page. Since the evolution of the internet, we are now able to share images / videos or post a comment on hot topics much more easily, frequently and to a larger audience, joining online communities who share a similar view.

On the flip side, perhaps having a digital playground to passionately vent about issues (often fueled by the media) with other like-minded people enables some people to behave in a manner they would not normally engage with in real life.

The online community has a powerful voice and provides a listening tool into the heart of the community, often forcing the hand of brands to actively respond to their concerns and provide a solution.

We all have those ‘usual suspects’ Facebook friends who pop their head up online whenever an issue unfolds but would they be so vocal in person?

Again, everyone has the right to their opinion but this is a timely reminder that what you share on your personal social media accounts could also be perceived as the opinion of your employer. Most recently, I witnessed a heated conversation between two fans on a business Facebook page with one of the participants threatening to send an email to their employer about their aggressive online behaviour. Suddenly, silence.

Remember, you are communicating on a public platform and what you say can be seen by a lot of people and shared vastly. Sometimes it’s wise to take a pause before posting, the outcome might be different.

Common human decency tells us to be kind to strangers and the same manners should be applied to online discussions. Be respectful and polite.

Posting mean, hurtful and threatening comments is cyberbullying and can have detrimental effects on all parties involved. To find out more about cyberbullying, visit Reachout.com (http://au.reachout.com/cyberbullying).

Don’t be a poor sport, play nicely.

Does your organisation have a staff social media policy in place? It’s an important tool that can protect your brand, employees and most importantly, the organisation’s reputation in a time of crisis.

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