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Losing friends through Social Media?

12 Apr 13

New research suggests tensions, arguments and hostility on social networking sites are spilling over into real life, but are users losing friends as a result?

That is according to corporate training company VitalSmarts, who believe social networks are becoming increasingly hostile across the world.

The report says a whopping 78% of users are currently reporting rising hatred online and two in five blocking, unsubscribing or “unfriending” someone over an argument on social media. Does this sound familiar?

The online survey of 2,698 respondents suggests contentious conversations that begin online tend to spill over into real life, also indicating that people are generally less polite and tensions often go unresolved on social media.

Joseph Grenny, co-author of the study, says these tensions arise and go unresolved in part because online conversations provide a unique set of challenges that are seldom taken into consideration when people begin typing their frustrations.

“Social media platforms allow us to connect with others and strengthen relationships in ways that weren’t possible before," he says.

"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.”

And as the research indicates, younger people are four times more likely than Baby Boomers to prefer having these emotionally charged conversations over social media, so the need to learn to effectively communicate online is increasing.

“Social media platforms aren’t the problem," Grenny says.

"It’s how people are using them that is causing a degradation of dialogue that has potential to destroy our most meaningful personal relationships."

Specific findings include:

• 76% have witnessed an argument over social media

• 19% have decreased in-person contact with someone because of something they said online

• 88% believe people are less polite on social media than in person

• 81% say the difficult or emotionally charged conversations they have held over social media remain unresolved

As a result, Grenny offers tips for communicating both candidly and respectfully on social media:

• 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?”

• 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…”

• 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.

• 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% of the topic but create a false sense of conflict when they spend all their time arguing over the other 20%.

• Trust your gut: When reading a response to your post and you feel the conversation is getting too emotional for an online exchange—you’re right! Stop. Take it offline. Or better yet, face-to-face.

Have you lost friends through Social Media? Do you fly off the handle online? Tell us your experiences below

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