Social Media and Conflict

Here are some things that I have learned or have observed regarding social media and avoiding or handling conflict online. I hope you find it helpful. Thanks for reading! 

1) Realize that social media is limited in its ability to communicate accurately. In other words, sooner or later you can and will be misunderstood as a writer and you can and will misunderstand as a reader.

2) Once you confront a person as to a perceived slight/offense, and they say you misunderstood me, be humble enough to think, “I may have misunderstood him (or her).” 

3) If the communication continues to bother you, continue to engage on the subject matter until the other person responds, “Now you get what I’m saying.” More than likely the conflict will be over at that point. 

4) Some real-life relationships have trouble doing the same on social media. It is not the end of the world to point this out gently and “un-friend” the person in the virtual world while simultaneously continuing the friendship in the real world. Make sure you both agree before ending the online relationship.

5) Social media has all kinds of purposes. Some use it to connect with friends, co-workers or schoolmates. Others use it to re-connect with people that haven’t been seen in a while (high school friends, friends from the community in which one used to live, etc.). It is also useful for sharing a hobby with like-minded friends. You may use it for any or all of the above or even a different reason. Don’t assume what you think is appropriate for social media is the same as what others think is appropriate. If it isn’t immoral, give latitude and extend grace.

6) Little conflicts can be handled online. Bigger ones or those that become bigger necessitate a phone call or an in-person discussion. Texts, tweets and emails don’t communicate the person’s emotions, tone, etc. Those clues are incredibly important to accurately understand what another person is trying to communicate.

7) No online conflict is serious enough to end a long-term real-life friendship. Understand that if you allow an online misunderstanding or conflict to do so, forgiveness may be granted but the damage may be too great for the friendship to be salvaged.

Some Other Helpful Hints:

1) Avoid controversial subjects but if you do engage in them, try to thank the other party for engaging in the discussion. Be open to ways in which the other party brings out an interesting or thought-provoking post or comment. If you think they have a valid point, even if this doesn’t change your mind on the subject, let them know. You can disagree without being disagreeable. On controversial subjects we are all opinionated. Keep that in mind when you think someone else is being so.

2) In Facebook, you can choose whose updates you see and whose you hide. Some friends we all enjoy keeping up with but their pages or updates either annoy us or don’t interest us. You don’t have to lose the connection and the ability to communicate when you want to do so and about what you want to communicate. Just hide their updates and go visit their page from time-to-time or send them an email periodically.

3) Stop in on friends pages with whom you have not communicated in a while. It’s easy to think these people don’t even talk to me, why am I connected to them online? It takes two to tango, so dance over to their page and say hello or send a nice email.

4) Utilize social media for good. Many people not on social media think of it in the negative. Their only experiences with it are what they hear on the news or in discussions with their real world friends. Pedophiles who take advantage of adolescents online and affairs that are started are the things they hear and cause them to judge the medium as evil or immoral. Send an encouragement at least once a week. Watch your friends’ updates and look for opportunities to brighten someone’s day that is going all wrong or express sympathy for a lost loved one or prayers for those in crises.

Enjoy your online experience. I hope that these thoughts help you to have fun connecting with a broad range of people who will lift your spirits, make you laugh or cry in empathy, stimulate your mind and just make you a better person. Remember, you have quite a bit of power to do much good online. Meet that challenge and help change the world, one post or comment at a time.

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