If you use social media and you like to consume and communicate ideas, there will be times when a funny one-liner pops into your head as a representation of your thoughts on an issue. Do you post it, or refrain for fear of coming off as dismissive?
The best snark comes from being the opposite of dismissive. When you really dive into an idea, read some books, discuss with friends, and ponder it, you begin to form coherent responses. They begin as big gnarly beliefs about the idea that would be hard to communicate without a long treatise. The more you think about it, the more you can pare it down. At some point, you have an epiphany, and a short phrase pops into your head as a summary of the entire idea and your beliefs about it. If it’s an idea that you find lacking, it’s probably a snarky comment.
When you post your thoughts for the world to see, you know the denizens of world have been doing thinking of their own behind the scenes, just as you have. They’ve been thinking about other things. They don’t have the context you have for your snark. Those who are inclined to agree with your position instinctively find it hilarious. Those who take the idea more seriously are apt to be offended. No one is going to understand everything that you imagine to be so brilliantly wrapped in that little bit of wordsmithery.
You can deal with this by posting the entirety of your thoughts on everything rather than or in addition to a short quip. You can pack it with links and references. “If they don’t read it, at least they’ll know I know what I’m talking about, damnit!” Oddly, this approach does not prevent misunderstanding, but often generates more. It also reduces the number of people who pay any attention at all.
Another approach is to not post anything snarky. Stick to safe wording or mundane topics, and reserve your thoughts on complex or controversial issues for forums where you have better opportunity to engage in meaningful back and forth, show you care, etc. This is a way to reduce the stress of haters hating your Facebook posts. It’s also a way to be boring. That moment of epiphany, when you think you have a clever way to sum up an idea, is actually pretty energizing and fun. It feels good to test it out. Social media is perfect for that. Not posting things that may come off as too glib will take a lot of the fun away for you, and for those who follow you.
Know yourself. Will you be able to handle being misunderstood? If not, practice. Get used to it. Don’t be threatened by it. Try to actually have fun with it. Find a way to be content even if someone says, “So let me see if I get what you’re saying”, and proceeds to describe nothing remotely close to what you mean. Can you let it go unexplained? Learn to.
There is value in explaining yourself. There is value in being sensitive to how your words may sound to others. There is value in being thoughtful about how to best communicate an idea without offending. But it’s certainly not the highest value. Don’t be afraid to put your ideas out there. Your own ideas are subject to change with time and information, so if you’re going to put your stuff out there, you’ll also need the freedom to publicly change points of view. As long as you see social media not as a way to present your Magnum Opus to the world, but as a way to have fun exchanging ideas – even those you’re only toying with – I say bring on the snark.