Why do we have such trouble communicating online?
I saw a comedy sketch in college about the people on your Facebook feed (tangent: here’s a video probably inspired by the sketch. It’s largely by the same group, who started a sketch comedy show called Studio C, then a Youtube Channel called JK Studios). It was pretty funny, but I remember thinking afterwards: if we get annoyed at people posting religious stuff, baby stuff, personal stuff, political stuff, food stuff…what’s left to post?
Perhaps we should ask, why do we post things online at all? Here’s one potential reason:
I’m not exploring Mars like I dreamed of doing as a kid, but there are things that excite me (surprise, surprise). They’re more exciting when I get to share them! I want you to see that cute baby face. I want you to feel the joy I did when I saw her.
But maybe you can’t have kids. Maybe you’ve chosen not to. Maybe you just don’t like kids. So you don’t feel the joy I did. You feel hurt or annoyed. You wanted to see something interesting and instead you just saw the 20th baby post of the day.
Even if there is no particular reason to dislike a post, perhaps the most widespread annoyance is that you didn’t ask for it. Sure, you chose to follow me, friend me, etc., but one of the dangers of social media is that we don’t always know the hobby horses of our friends and acquaintances until we’re already following them.
When it’s so easy to publish something, it’s easy to forget that communication is a two-way thing. Sure, I post things hoping to get a positive response, but it’s so easy to post thinking that people will automatically feel what I felt.
And so you complain about the baby photo I posted. Maybe you just want me to know that you want to see something other than a baby photo. After all, you friended me after rock-climbing together. You thought you’d see more climbing posts. But I don’t take that well. You didn’t respond the way I wanted. Not only that, but you have said something negative about something that I feel strongly about. So we argue.
So how do we post things that won’t break up friendships and create family drama? How do we stop arguing with our friends?
I have one suggestion:
Consider your audience.
Recognize that only some will respond the way you do. They may not need an explanation with that cute baby photo. But for others, I can simply write something with the photo. “Look at my cute baby. This face brings me so much joy! What brings you joy?”
I’ve turned the post from a “look at what’s great about my life” post into a “let’s both share things that make us happy.” I’ve shown some consideration for my audience.
I’m not an expert at this. I have posted things without considering my audience. Some I’m aware of. I’m sure there are others I am not because you chose not to comment. But I’m trying to improve.
What other ways can we share better and argue less?