My Blog

How I Handle Fights on Social Media

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In my nearly 10 years of observing or participating in social media arguments, I have yet to see more than a handful of people have a change of heart about their position BECAUSE of a social media argument or post. It seems that no matter how many links get posted, or data gets cited, or evidence gets presented to support one's position, I have concluded that most people are more interested in winning an argument than seeking understanding or truth. When most people argue online, they often resort to personal attacks and emotional appeals that are devoid of objective facts; then, when someone challenges them with a different perspective or evidence that refutes their arguments, more often than not, rather than acknowledging the error of their own logic or the unsoundness of their own arguments, most people seek to save their "social-media-face." They often deflect, change the subject, throw out more emotional appeals, spew forth more personal attacks, or disengage from the exchange completely. The one thing that I rarely see is someone saying, "You know what? You're right. I was wrong. Thank you for explaining that to me." Even writing that felt foreign to me! From my experience, most people on social media do not change their minds because of social media arguments.

Some of that is undoubtedly due to the fact that MOST of what one INTENDS to communicate on social media is limited in the worst ways: we can't make eye contact, hear vocal variety, show facial expressions, see body language, hear people's emotions, or see how people are being affected by what is being said, etc. Because of that, much of what is intended NEVER makes it into the head or heart of the intended interlocutor, and, as such, understanding becomes nearly impossible. Communication only takes place when a listener/reader UNDERSTANDS a speaker's/writer's message in the exact way the speaker/writer INTENDED IT. Therefore, most of what we call "communication" is little more than self-expression. What happens during internet arguments, more often than not, is feelings get hurt, and personal attacks get worse, and the distance between people becomes even greater. At that point, not only does communication become impossible, relationships between people are often ended. That's what makes internet arguments so disappointing and sad.

Because of these, and other realities, I have chosen to use my time and energy and social media platforms to help, teach, encourage, inspire, empower, unite and uplift people. Of course, I sometimes say things that are challenging, and that might even offend some people, but it is my hope that people understand that I would not intentionally demean, tear down, or villify anyone on purpose.

If, by chance, I do have a conflict with someone, I choose to address that challenge by dealing with REAL people face-to-face. I talk to REAL audiences face-to-face. I address hurtful or mean comments with people, in person, face-to-face. I confront bullies face-to-face. I try to diffuse misunderstandings in person, face-to-face. Trust me, I do it A LOT more than I ever talk about online. However, if I can't talk to someone in person, then I try to talk to them on FaceTime. Or, if I can't connect with them on FaceTime, then I try to talk with them over the phone (and not leave a long voicemail); or, if I can't get a real voice on the other end of the phone, then I text them and ask them to pick up the phone; if I can't get them to pick up the phone, then I might try to send an email requesting that we talk on the phone or face-to-face; if I can't connect via email, I might send an inboxed message to their social media account (to try to get on the phone). Of course, all this face-to-face talk presupposes that I think the issue is big enough to warrant a face-to-face encounter. If it does not, then I am neither talking about it online, nor am I trying to talk to the person face-to-face. I have chosen to pick my battles. I am too busy, and too much of what is intended gets lost, for me to be arguing with people online.

If we have an issue, I want to see you face-to-face, and look you in your eye, and listen to how you really feel and seek to understand your perspective; and, I would hope that my openness to really listen to your perspective, and my effort to understand you, would convince you to hear what I have to say. If I can't talk with you in person or on the phone without us having a mutual respect for one another, or without a sense that both of us are seeking to understanding one another, then I am not going to argue with you or anyone. If people only want to argue online, I am convinced that they have way too much time on their hands, they do not want to be understood, or want to understand. Perhaps they do not want to learn and grow, or they are not interested in helping others learn and grow. In any case, it's not an efficient use of my time to try to engage such people.

I can't tell you how to handle your conflicts. I can just tell you how I have chosen to handle mine: by talking to, and listening to, real people, face-to-face. If more of us did that, I believe we would have a lot less acrimony, a lot more understanding, and a much better world.

-Manny Scott