Do your social media feeds look more like an online fight club than a place for friends and family to stay socially connected? Many platforms take on the feel of a school playground where bullies pick on the vulnerable, gossip spreads like wildfire, and feelings get hurt on a regular basis.
February 2017 Barna Research Group show that nearly half (45%) of American adults report getting involved in social media arguments, at least occasionally.
It is a strange reality that when we post online we often do not mean to hurt our friends and family and are surprised when they take things personally, and yet we know from experience how easy it is to become offended or feel hurt by something one of our friends or family has posted.
Why do social media posts go so wrong?
On social media it is easy to miss, or misunderstand, the context of a statement.
On social media often only part of a story or issue is communicated.
Individuals are more likely to make large wide sweeping statements, accusations, or conclusions when they are at a psychical distance from the people they are talking about.
When asked why they argued online, 26% report that the argument was triggered by a stranger not liking their post and 17% was triggered by them not liking the post of a stranger. 22% of the fights were the result of someone they know not liking their post, and 17% were because they didn’t like the post of someone they know. The remaining 19% were the result of jumping in to defend someone else involved in an online argument.
How do you avoid social media conflict?
Slow down and think before you post or respond. Social media platforms allows rapid communication, but some things should be thought about and considered before sharing. Especially when posting politics or other controversial issues, consider the impact you might have before publishing. Often the first thing that pops into your mind is not the best way to communicate your true opinions and thoughts.
Give people the benefit of doubt before you take offense. Whenever possible, assume that your friends and family did not intend to offend or hurt you with their post. It’s possible that they didn’t communicate their thoughts well or thoroughly. It’s possible they didn’t realize the impact the post would have on you. It’s possible that there are pieces of the picture that are missing, which change the meaning or impact.
Don’t get personal. It is nearly impossible to walk back personal attacks made publicly. If you have an issue with someone, try to settle it privately and avoid the public format of social media platform.
Social media has many positive benefits. It allows us to communicate cheaply and easily with people far away. It quickly spreads important information during disasters and emergencies. It helps build social connections among diverse communities, sharing experiences and supporting one another. Some platforms build professional connections, others personal ones. Some offer free or cheap educational material, others offer entertainment, while others allow selling and buying of products and services. The positive contributes are many, and social media, even as it evolves is here to stay.
Interaction on social media doesn’t have to devolve into a fight. Follow these three strategies and you are more likely to enjoy your online experiences and relationships.