The Better Angels Social Media Code of Conduct
These principles are represented by the acronym WINGS. Better Angels members are expected to wear their WINGS whenever they engage in online conversation. Failure to observer these principles may result in removal from the group (at the sole discretion of the moderator/administrator).
W – Write respectfully, with an openness to the idea that other opinions might be valid.
It’s fine to have strong opinions, but express them respectfully. To be a part of Better Angels Facebook discussions, you should keep an open mind and not degrade or discount others’ points of view. Work to maintain a “learning posture” that acknowledges there may be an angle to the discussion you’re not seeing.
- Avoid pejorative labels (“wingnuts,” “bible thumpers,” “libtards,” “snowflakes”). This is a first step without which the following will be meaningless.
- If you’ve heard or read a thoughtful idea from someone on the other side, share it. (“I read a liberal/conservative commentator who said something interesting about this…”)
And be sure to read an entire post and comment thread before weighing in, so you understand the context of the conversation you’re entering and people don’t need to repeat prior comments.
I – Use “I” statements for your own viewpoints, and don’t question or doubt other people’s lived experiences.
Better Angels members strive to represent their own viewpoints, rather than insisting that their statements speak for a whole group. We also recognize that each person’s lived experience is unique. If someone is telling you that certain statements or posts in the group make them feel a certain way, take that as presumptively valid.
- Criticize the idea, the policy, or the politician, not everyone on the other side. (Blue example: “Climate change denial is the most ultimately risky idea I’ve seen in my lifetime.” versus “Climate change deniers are either stupid or self-serving or both.” Or red example: “Climate science is uncertain enough that I don’t think we should start overhauling our way of life.” versus “Climate scientists have a liberal agenda to over-regulate the economy and tax us to death.”)
- Check your use of “they all” when referring to the other side. It’s the classic stereotyping phrase.
N – No gotchas; assume good faith.
People join Better Angels because they want to have honest, open discussions about our political divide. Engage with another’s best arguments, not just their weakest or most extreme. If someone posts something that seems ignorant or combative (or downright offensive), take a deep breath, assume that person meant well and has expressed themselves inartfully and a) work to engage them respectfully, or b) ignore it and move on.
- Try an “eavesdropper” thought experiment. How would a rational and well-intentioned member of the other group feel when listening to you describe their side?
- Respected (even if strongly disagreed with) versus disrespected?
- Understood (at least partially) versus grossly misrepresented?
- Criticize your own side too. (“We are losing that group because we haven’t listened to them very well.” “Sometimes our leaders talk as if they have the answer to…[a complex problem], and I don’t think they do.”)
If you feel a post or comment has truly crossed the line and violates the spirit of our community as outlined here, please contact the group administrator or flag it for review. Don’t publicly question whether the person should be in the group, etc.
G – Get to common ground to keep the conversation going.
We should always welcome opportunities for respectful engagement with those who hold different views. When we disagree with one another, we should strive to do so accurately—avoiding exaggerated disagreement—and to recognize common ground. Even when our name is on our profile, it’s easy to don the mask that social media provides and get carried away with casting our fellow citizens as “others” and overemphasize our differences.
- The goal is accurate disagreement, where you actually understand how they see the situation or the policy before you disagree or pose your alternative. (“I think we can agree to disagree on this point, but overall it seems we agree on…”)
- If you go on a tear about a particular politician, hold back from putting all supporters into the same box. (“I’m talking about [so and so], and not everyone who voted for him/her.”)
S – Sarcasm doesn’t translate on social media.
Don’t use it when engaging in an open, honest discussion. Enough said.
Take the Better Angels “Social Media Pledge”!
If you’d like to publicly display your commitment to these rules, Better Angels would love your support! You can follow these steps to do so:
- Click on the frame to add it to your Facebook profile picture (if your mobile device is having trouble with the link, click here).
- Post the Social Media Pledge to your profile by clicking one of the share buttons below.
- Stay informed by subscribing to Better Angels updates:
Note: You can adjust the zoom on your photo to ensure the frame fits; it should work well on most photos.
We also suggest you post the following words to your profile photo description: “I took the BetterAngels Social Media Pledge: https://www.better-angels.org/social-media-pledge/”
Additionally, you can download this photo to use it for your other social media profiles. If you do, please post the pledge on those platforms as well.