October 8, 2014
Everyone has seen the interactions between individuals on Twitter or Facebook. Sometimes we laugh at them, and sometimes we cringe. There is always the opportunity for conflicts and differences of opinion to surface when talking in a global setting. The very nature of social media is for the purpose of discussions and information sharing. But of course with this sharing comes disagreements. We are all unique individuals with different backgrounds, life experiences, and outlooks. While there is nothing wrong with different views it does lead inevitably to debating and discussing those differences.
Fighting is the next step in the debate/discussion cycle. When people discuss their differences we involuntarily try to “win” the other person over to our point of view. When that doesn’t happen we tend to become antagonistic or even take the debate personal. Once things become personal it quickly deteriorates to a social fight. Social fighting is bad for many reasons. Here are three popular reasons why social fighting is a bad idea.
1. Social Fighting Involves Everyone
Unlike in person meetings when disagreements and debates (which lead to fights) occur, when you are holding these conversations online on a public and wide open social network you are allowing everyone to sit around and observe. No longer is this a private matter between two people but it turns into a public stage with the world watching. I’ve seen times when this public stage and global focus has been an extremely positive thing in helping the debate to reach a right conclusion; but I’d venture to say the majority of the time the arguments would be better served to be carried out in private. There’s no need to involve the world in your argument about the proper way to recycle pizza boxes. (I’m being facetious of course…we all know the right way is to throw them in the compost pile).
Too many private battles begin with an innocuous tweet or status update which leads to a disagreement which leads to mud-slinging which leads to a bare-fist twitter brawl. Because a conversation can degenerate so quickly from something so small as a tweet it can be difficult to monitor and nip it in the bud before it turns into something bigger. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to be aware of it.
2. Social Fighting Is Permanent
There are times when you watch a fight happen live on social media. You sit on the edge of your seat (or maybe through spread fingers with hand over face) and you hold your breath as you wait for the next message to be posted. You probably keep up with the conversation throughout the day and then when it reaches a conclusion you move on with what you were doing. Sometimes you may never think about the subject again. If you were one of the people involved in the debate you may spend a bit more time thinking over your responses and the replies you received. Perhaps you will even reflect back on it the next day as you decide if you were correct in your posts. But eventually you’ll forget the debate even happened. You’ll also go on with your life. You may even have subsequent conversations with the person you were fighting with and find that you both made mistakes and reconcile with each other. You may very well meet them in person at some point and talk out your differences. But the problem with social fighting is that the fight is now permanently recorded.
The fight which in real-life may have blown over in a 30 minute or hour long argument and then left behind now sits dormant on the internet. Ready to be uncovered by someone new at any point in time. Forever. Your words written in haste or written incorrectly are forever recorded to be found and read and analyzed by the world. This is very different from other situations and yet another reason why social fighting is a very bad practice. Don’t make your negative thoughtless comments and arguments be what you are forever remembered by online.
3. Social Fighting Wastes Time
I don’t know about anyone else but interacting on social media is an extremely time intensive process. To do it well and do it right you have to listen. You have to pay attention to what’s being said and what’s being shared and then you have to respond to each message. While in person this is the single focus of your efforts and you work through your debate and then walk away (as we looked at previously); when you debate online and in social media you end up trying to multi-task. I would wager that most of us do that rather ineffectively. We make our comment and then we return to our other tasks on our task list but all the while keep one eye trained on the top right corner of our screen waiting for the notification of a reply. Our minds are not engaged in what we are doing but rather constantly distracted waiting for the imminent reply. This completely ruins our ability to concentrate on other tasks and as a result slows our progress. Social fighting is usually about something we’re passionate about. As a result our passion drives our thinking and our thinking affects our output.
While you may think you’re managing your time well I would be bold and say you could be managing it better. The constant distractions and the disruption to your thinking which occurs each time you jump back into a social fight slows the progress you would otherwise make. Never forget the person picking fights, looking for ways to stir up conflict, or just being contrary in their messages usually is the one with the most amount of time to spend.
It seems to make common sense that social fighting is not a good thing but sometimes we can forget about it when we’re in the heat of the moment. Hopefully these three points will stick your mind and the next time you find yourself enthralled in a 140 character war of words you will think of them and change your approach.
If you’re able speak to people one-on-one. Take the time to make a personal connection and make the effort to communicate effectively. Yes, differences occur and yes there are times when arguments will erupt-but social media is not always the place to hold them. Make your interactions meaningful. Make your social media meaningful.