by Toni Birdsong
Rejection. Humiliation. Exclusion.
These are just a few of the emotions that can emerge from everyday conversations in a wired world. Be it via an email, a text, or a post, an emotional fray is playing out every second in the digital realm.
You’ve likely been there. And if you haven’t you will be—just give it time.
It looks like this: You try to follow someone on Twitter and realize you’ve been blocked. You visit someone’s wall on Facebook to leave a note and realize you’ve been defriended. You sit home alone on a Friday night and see your best friends on Facebook whooping it up at a party and posting photos—sans you. You post an opinion and someone wails on you—you’ve been flamed. Or, because of your faith, politics, race, or profession, you get rude or even threatening remarks on your blog from a hater or a troll.
When you throw the “public” element of the Internet into the communication mix and the fact that hundreds or even thousands of people are listening in . . . the threat of humiliation triples, and hence the intense emotions.
Studies show that engaging in social networks—in negative encounters—can trigger physical responses such as depression, anxiety, and most recently even asthma attacks as reported in this ABC.com story.
So how do you react? How do you adapt to a culture of substandard communication, come out in one piece, and honor Christ? While each situation will differ, you can gain a healthier perspective about online conflict.
10 ways to handle an online conflict:
- Evaluate objectively. Go back over the dialogue that lead up to the conflict and determine if you are responsible. Get another (objective) person’s opinion.
- Cool off before clicking. Rather than firing off a response, chill out and log off. Depending on the level of emotion, this may require a few hours or even a few days as a “cooling off” period.
- Ask forgiveness if needed. If you realize that you mispoke, relayed incorrect information, or responded inappropriately—then own it. Ask the person (if digitally possible) if they will forgive the offense.
- Maintain a “real” perspective. Match the worry to the relationship. Were you close to the person or were they a stranger prone to spar with anyone? Go read their feed/wall/blog to get a full picture. Cyberspace is huge and words are dangerous. If you angst over every person who disagrees with you, you won’t last long. Pray and determine if the issue is worthy to pursue, if not, let it go and move on.
- Don’t take it personally. Communicating online leaves a lot to be desired. If humans who talk face-to-face have conflict, you can bet that people writing brief posts will run into collassal confusion over written “intent.” It’s rarely about you and mainly about the medium.
- Take the conversation off-stage. Clarify a comment by sending a Direct Message (DM), private message, or email if possible. Chances are you can resolve an ambiguity before it escalates.
- Realize where you live. Conflict is part of your life on earth. Interacting online is no different. You may be judged, misunderstood, bullied, and ridiculed. And, there will be times when you will be at fault. It’s human nature this side of heaven and a cultural reality digital communities.
- Take it to the throne. God is with you at all times. He knows the snares of the wired world and He is willing to take the burden from you—immediately. Pray for the person with whom you are in conflict. Present your heart to God and let Him sort out the details. Don’t re-engage with others online until your heart is pure and aligned with Christ.
- Don’t ignore people. Sure, it’s easy to dismiss, block, or delete a negative comment. However, you may miss an opportunity to echo Christ to your community. Address a comment in love—no matter how different it may be from yours. Sometimes your biggest crtics can end up becoming your biggest fans—if you work through and not around the tough stuff.
- Assume the best in others. Simply being alive and pursuing relationship requires courage. That is true of you, and everyone you encounter. Everyone has bad days. Everyone makes mistakes. As Christians, grace is our response. Walking through a conflict with honesty and kindness will speak more about Christ than posting a thousand bible verses . . . and certainly more than automatically hitting the “block” button.
Have you ever had to deal with conflict online? If so, how did you handle it?
Post/Tweet this today:
Lord, make me a digital channel of your peace through which grace and mercy relentlessly flow. Amen. #LiveSticky