A rather unpleasant thing happened to me on Facebook this week. The first time, it’s happened.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love social media and for me, a journalist and writer, the pros far, far outweigh the cons. If you use a little common sense of course. I must stress that this still holds true.

However, one should always remember that what you post on Facebook or any other similar site can have consequences.  There is an etiquette to what you do and getting it wrong and cause hurt, suspicion, fear and anger.

And it can happen to anyone…

How do you use Facebook? I tend to use it for friends and acquaintances where I feel I’ve established enough of a rapport for them to see a little more of my personality. The non-business, other side of my character. So if you are a Facebook friend with me, we will generally have had some contact at some point.

This week, a close friend both on and off line, put up a comment about a celebrity in the news. I responded to that comment with my personal take. It wasn’t all that positive to be fair. Suddenly a third person butted in, refuting my comment. I assumed she was a friend of my friend. She had nothing to do with me. I disagreed with what she said – just that, I said ‘I disagree’.

Another friend joined the conversation outlining why he admired this celebrity rather more than I did. I responded to him and he liked my comment. In this comment I said referred to a family member going through a hard time being more deserving of my admiration. This stranger then made a very disparaging comment about my family member. Her words were ‘why are we weeping in our hankies over a widow with three children’.

I responded saying what she had said was horrible, I was not aware that she knew any of us in the conversation and that  I would be asking my friend who posted the original comment to block her. And I did do that.

She responded slagging me off personally (she doesn’t know me nor I her). At that point I knew there was no point in carrying on with this person as I would never win. She was enjoying the venom, relishing the toxic nature of our exchange. So I then shut down the conversation by saying her comments were noted.  Believe me, that’s my way of saying two words – “…k off”.

I was quickly able to find out how she could be part of the conversation and through which mutual acquaintance, who did not hesitate in blocking her. Apparently she was elderly with problems and alone. Did I feel sorry for her? Not in the least. I felt that she had shown no compassion.

Later I must admit I raised a sly smile when another person joined that conversation (a true friend) telling her to go away  – with those immortal words ‘…k off!’

What lesson can we learn from this? For me, it’s about realising earlier when someone is just not ‘right’, their comments just don’t fit, are over the top from someone who doesn’t know you – and it’s best to exit such a conversation as soon as possible. It’s surprising how angry you can get even remotely through a computer.

For us generally, engaging in such a way on FB or any other site has consequences. For this woman,  lonely or not, she’s been blocked from two of her friends and possibly others who saw sight of the conversation. If you feel you want to rant about something or someone then do it quietly,  privately, even in the old fashioned way of writing it down – but don’t put it on line.

You know the old saying ‘if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at  all’ – that’s so true for social media. And remember what you do say can come back to bite you in unexpected ways. So you’ve been warned!