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3 Causes of Conflict on Social Media and How You Should Handle Them

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Imagine a world in which the constant digital distraction does not give your emotional intelligence a beating. A place where you can engage with others and not feel guided towards conflict and negativity. Sadly, this is not the world that we live in with regards to social media.

If you avoid the following three common causes of stress on social media, you’ll be able to find your digital respite:

1. Seeing the world in absolutes

We are all looking at the universe through our own keyhole. Our viewpoint will be based on various factors such as where we live, our education, our social group, and perhaps our income level too. It can be easy to get trapped into thinking that our version of reality is everybody’s reality.

We see this on Facebook all the time, especially when a viewpoint is country centric. We believe that our country or culture does things the right way, and that everyone should adhere to the same standards. This can be seen around major issues such as human rights and birth control. Additionally, this can be seen with micro conflicts that can be just as emotive, such as is it ethical to declaw a cat?

Oscar Wilde is quoted as saying “patriotism is the virtue of the vicious” and it seems that social media has taken that flag waving to a whole new level. Statements can be made without taking a moment to realise that people from other countries, cultures, and backgrounds may read it.

The point of the platform should be to communicate, to find out more, and add depth and range to your opinion. Sadly, nationalism seems to be on the rise across the west, and seeing the world in absolutes is one of the causes of this.

In 1775 Samuel Johnson said that “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” As you watch arguments unfold online, it seems this statement still rings true.

“Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t want plastered on a billboard with your face on it.” – Erin Bury

2. Taking the worst possible interpretation 

Words are the worst way to communicate, and in the written form we only understand 7% of what people mean. In person, the rest of the meaning is made up from body language and how the words are said. Even then, things can still be taken out of context or misconstrued. Online, misunderstandings can happen all the time.

It seems that some social media users are primed for conflict. A simple factual correction can be deemed an attack, or to be defending someone the original poster dislikes. We see this a lot in political discussions, as well as the many movements that are currently sweeping across the social and political landscape.

Your personal profile is part of your brand, and you should be using it to develop emotional connection, trust, and authority. A simple misstep, or being drawn in to a vicious argument, can ruin your standing and perhaps even your business. Take a moment to breathe and ask yourself, is what I’m thinking about posting worth it? Do these people know you? How well have they expressed their point? Should you ask for clarification before taking it personally and launching a war of words? See the best in people, and then respond.

3. Fuelling negativity by sharing conflict

This is common in entrepreneurial circles, and I suspect it might be an engagement hack. We are led to believe that someone has been attacked, or trolled, for something they said, did, or perhaps even for one of their products.

A hearty discussion has taken place in the DM’s, on a profile, or in a group, and there was a serious difference of opinion. Unable to just move on and put it down, they activate their tribe of like minded people. This is often linked to a click baity heading such as “you will never believe what someone just said to me…”

A virtual mob is formed, with the intention of supporting the posters viewpoint, and getting involved in the drama. If it was online, and the attackers name is known, then screenshots of the conversation may be shared. Some of the horde may break off and go and engage directly by posting their opinion on the original discussion.

Something else people do is adding fuel to the fire. A defensive force is mustered to counter this. We then have two groups of people yelling at each other with digital megaphones and with no intention of communicating effectively, learning, or listening. The sun sets once again on the digital landscape.

On social media, you may be communicating with people who have English as a second, third, or fourth language. They may have wildly different educational backgrounds to you or be going through an incredibly stressful time in life, so be kind to everyone.

“Social media has given us this idea that we should all have a posse of friends when in reality, if we have one or two really good friends, we are lucky.” – Brene Brown

Online written communication is an appalling way to get your point across, and even in person we have roadblocks to traverse in order to avoid miscommunication. 

Life is stressful enough as it is without creating conflict. We have 1440 minutes in any given day, so ask yourself, “Do you really want to use them fighting battles that can’t be won or should you simply enjoy life?”

Share your thoughts below on social media, and how you try to avoid the negative people on there!

Darren Horne is an educator and consultant focusing on leadership and communications. He is an author of an award winning book, a Neuro Linguistic Programming Practitioner, on the board of trustees for an alcohol and addiction charity, and has been interviewed globally. His mission is to help a million people be a little happier. Darren also owns a martial arts studio focusing on mindfulness, emotional intelligence and life performance. You can find him on Facebook, and www.darrenhorne.com.

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