By Christen A. Johnson
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Suzanne Degges-White, co-author of “Toxic Friendships: Knowing the Rules and Dealing With the Friends Who Break Them,” said approaching conflict resolution through social media is harmful to interpersonal relationships.
In the latest episode of “What did Kanye West tweet,” the Chicago-born rapper Twitter-stormed his 28 million followers, airing out his many grievances with rapper Drake.
With roughly 326 million monthly active users on Twitter, and a whopping 1.4 billion daily users on Facebook, it’s fair to say that social media has become ubiquitous within our culture and daily lives.
The pseudo sense of connectivity it provides can make sharing your feelings on the platforms seem normal.
This especially rings true for ultra social-media-savvy adults ages 18 to 29, 88 percent of whom use at least one social site, the highest among any age group according to a Pew Research analysis.
But is addressing a conflict via social feed truly the best way to reach reconciliation? Likely not.
Suzanne Degges-White, co-author of “Toxic Friendships: Knowing the Rules and Dealing With the Friends Who Break Them,” said approaching conflict resolution through social media is harmful to interpersonal relationships.
“Social media does not give place for nuance, history or circumstance,” she said. “When you use social media this way, you’re not going to solve any problems, but dig a deeper line in the sand between you and the other person.”
Degges-White said most Twitter users don’t expect a response to their tweets, so using the public platform to share private details operates more like a megaphone.
“You’re not allowing for a conversation to take place,” she said. “It’s kind of you just venting. It’s infantile, too, because you’re not giving someone a chance to speak back to you.”
Social media is not meant to be a main source of communication and personal exchange, explained Degges-White, but its ease and accessibility can embolden people to use their “Twitter fingers” before going directly to the source of conflict.
“Having to look someone in the eye, that’s what takes courage,” she said. “On social media, we are invulnerable and invincible. It has no positive impact if you’re really wanting to communicate with someone about something real.”
Degges-White, who is also a professor and chair in the department of counseling at Northern Illinois University, highlighted three benefits of face-to-face conversations, and how to go about them, when trying to achieve successful conflict resolution.
You can actually resolve the issue. “It makes you a stronger person to sit through a difficult conversation,” she said. “Challenge yourself to have a conversation and to find ways to engage. The more you do it, you’ll get better.”
You can gain empathy for the other side. “Be willing to listen to the other person’s point of view and be accepting if their opinion differs. If we don’t have conversations with other people, we stop growing. The only way to do that is allowing yourself to hear another person’s side. This deepens your maturing in relationships and not only think ‘my way or highway.'”
You can learn to be wrong. “When we admit we’re wrong, this is the only way we learn. You don’t really have to learn any lessons from using social media. The point of education is to learn what you don’t know, not validate what you do.”