Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dealing with Online Hostilities

Hubby and I debate. It's why we married each other. We debate about politics. He doesn't share my opinion about war or the military. He would be fine if HB joined and thinks I need to be nicer to my brother about his service. He also thinks that my boycotting China and encouraging others to do so will not make the situation better. In fact, he thinks it will make it worse. Although in the spirit of fairness, we've had trade relations with China since the 70s and it has only improved the country a little. They have a free-trade market, but they still hold heavy restrictions on their citizens. I love Hubby. Sometimes our discussions get a little heated, but in general, we agree to disagree. I have one advantage that debates on the internet don't have. With Hubby, I can see him. I can see his expressions and hear his voice and know when a good time to press an issue is and when it isn't. I know when I've gone too far. I know when it's become personal and not just a debate.

Maria, from This Crazy Love, posted on Facebook her take on Roe V. Wade. She's pro-life and said so. She wasn't hostile. She didn't criticize or ostracize pro-choicers. She just stated her feelings and walked away. As a result, she was inundated with comments. She posted in her blog asking for advice on how to deal with this sort of thing.

Things like that have happened to me before. I post my opinion online and I get a few digs here or just out and out nastiness. People come to expect it, but should we? I suppose because people are only looking at their computer screens they forget that there is a living breathing person on the other end, who has feelings too.

But it could also be that with especially hot button issues that people take another persons opinion too personally. Like in the case of Maria, did a person who had an abortion think Maria now hated her based on her post? I'm sure Maria doesn't hate a person who had an abortion, but rather hopes that the person will see why it's wrong. I can't speak for her, but from what I can tell, it's not in Maria's nature to think ill of a person.

Further, people we know in real life can also use the internet and e-mail as a way to make jabs or start arguments when their feelings are hurt. I have a friend, who is probably upset with me, but rather than talking about it or explaining that she feels hurt, she has resolved to making a jab while discussing my child's birthday. It's a low blow, but I understand that when people have trouble confronting a person with a problem, they can resort to all sorts of tactics.

I asked a friend for advice about this sort of thing because he too is encountering it and is having trouble dealing with it himself. He mentioned something called BIFF: brief, informative, friendly and firm if you need to address the issue. If there is a misunderstanding and you don't want things to escalate, it's easier to simply follow BIFF or if there's no reason to address the issue, it's better to not say anything at all.

I think in Maria's case, perhaps the people who got upset should have been more tactfully. They could express their feelings without resorting to hostile language. Or they could acknowledge Maria's feelings and simply say they disagree.

There's this great article about dealing with hostilities

I like the part where it talks about disengaging. When we debate or discuss online, people get emotionally caught up and take another person's opinion as a personal attack. If we intend on debating with the person, it is better to disengage emotionally as much as possible and use BIFF to our advantage.

If for example, I was deciding that Maria was out of line, I could say this "I disagree with you because women who have medical issues should not be forced to carry a child to term and thus loose their lives. I understand how you feel, however, and I do agree that there is evidence that some women are using abortion as a birth control method. I think that is wrong; however, I still believe abortion should be an option so that women who are facing life threatening decisions have options." Of course, I don't believe what I typed, but you get the idea. Facts without emotion. Friendliness without hostility will smooth things out while dealing with issues.

1 comment:

  1. I was pretty nervous when I posted something on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade for this very reason. I kind of expected to lose some friends because of it it (I didn't and was pleasantly surprised).


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