Survey: Is Social Media Making Us Hostile?

By Devon Glenn 

social networks, social media, speech

gcpics /

Four in five people believe that incivility on social media is on the rise, according to an online survey conducted by VitalSmarts. Out of 2,698 respondents, 76 percent said they have witnessed an argument over social media, while 88 percent believe people are less polite on social networks than they are in person.

One respondent, Laura J., described a co-worker’s post that explained in violent detail how she would like to “handle co-workers like we did in the old days.” The other employees unfriended her, and one year later, they continue to avoid her in the office “for fear she’ll come after [us].”

Losing friends and colleagues is not an uncommon side effect of online conflict, the survey revealed. Two in five respondents said they have unfriended or blocked family members, friends, or coworkers as a result of online hostility; and 19 percent have avoided seeing others in person because of something they said online.

According to Joseph Grenny, co-author of the New York Times best-seller Crucial Conversations, “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,” he said.

Research shows that younger people are four times more likely than Baby Boomers to try and handle a conflict over social media, but it seems that their communication skills have gone out the browser window.

“Although younger people may be more comfortable writing or typing to communicate with each other, they are not necessarily better writers,” said co-author Kerry Patterson. “In fact, our research suggests the need to learn to effectively communicate online to reverse the trend of hostility on social media.”