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Sharing your opinions

Social networking sites are a great way to exchange views on a variety of subjects ranging from sports to politics to religion to the latest technology. As you can imagine, people sometimes engage in spirited debates on these and many other issues; there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it strengthens our democracy to have a healthy exchange of ideas and opinions. Sometimes these debates — especially when politics is involved — can get a little too spirited, so here’s some general advice.

Keep it civil. It’s OK to disagree but try to be respectful of other people. Name calling and derisive comments are almost never effective and wind up alienating not only the person they’re aimed at, but others as well. If someone is mean or disrespectful to you or others, it’s best not to engage in a war of words, but to just move on. There are plenty of other people you can interact with. And know that if you express your opinions, there is always a chance that others will disagree, and some may be disagreeable in the way they disagree.

Know fact from fiction. Some things online are simply not true. Sometimes they’re posted to deliberately smear a public official, political candidate, or celebrity and sometimes they’re just honest mistakes. Don’t believe everything you read and never forward or share something if you’re not sure it’s true because then you’re the one who’s spreading false information. If you see something questionable on a website, do a search and research on a reputable site to determine its validity. Sites like Snopes.com and Politifact.com do a good job separating fact from fiction.

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