STUDY: Hostility On The Rise On Facebook, Other Social Networks

By David Cohen 

Social networks like Facebook help people connect, but sometimes, those connections go bad. Joseph Grenny, co-author of New York Times best-seller Crucial Conversations, conducted an online survey about hostility on social networks and got some surprising results from the 2,698 respondents.

Grenny found that:

  • 78 percent of users reported rising incivility online.
  • Two out of five blocked, unsubscribed to, or defriended someone over arguments that took place via social media.
  • 76 percent have witnessed arguments via social media.
  • 19 percent have decreased in-person contact with someone because of something they said online.
  • 88 percent believe people are less polite on social media than in person.
  • 81 percent said difficult or emotionally charged conversations they have held over social media remained unresolved.

Grenny offered five tips for communicating candidly and respectfully via social media:

  1. Check your motives: Social media hasn’t only changed the way we communicate, it has modified our motives. Ask yourself, “Is my goal to get lots of likes (or even provoke controversy), or do I want healthy dialogue?”
  2. Replace hot words: If your goal is to make a point rather than score a point, replace “hot” words that provoke offense with words that help others understand your position. For example, replace, “That is idiotic,” with, “I disagree for the following reasons.”
  3. Pause to put emotions in check: Never post a comment when you’re feeling emotionally triggered. Never! If you wait four hours, you’re likely to respond differently.
  4. Agree before you disagree: It’s fine to disagree, but don’t point out your disagreement until you acknowledge areas where you agree. Often, arguers agree on 80 percent of the topic but create a false sense of conflict when they spend all of their time arguing over the other 20 percent.
  5. Trust your gut: When reading a response to your post, if you feel like the conversation is getting too emotional for an online exchange, you’re right! Stop. Take it offline, or, better yet, face-to-face.

Grenny added:

Social media platforms allow us to connect with others and strengthen relationships in ways that weren’t possible before. Sadly, they have also become the default forums for holding high-stakes conversations, blasting polarizing opinions, and making statements with little regard for those within screen shot. We struggle to speak candidly and respectfully in person, let alone through a forum that allows no immediate feedback or the opportunity to see how our words will affect others.

Social media platforms aren’t the problem, it’s how people are using them that is causing a degradation of dialogue that has potential to destroy our most meaningful personal relationships.

Readers: Are you surprised at any of Grenny’s findings?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.