Part of how we engage, for better or worse, is social media. Like any tool, social sites have benefits but also algorithms that have been proven to increase polarization. The more we click “like” the more social networks feed us what we already believe.
That’s called confirmation bias.
But social media isn’t going anywhere. We need more constructive ways to share our views, even strong ones, should we choose use these platforms.
We need the ability to disagree without resorting to hateful rhetoric.
This is easier said than done. Imagine yourself seeing a post from a friend that reflects a view counter to your own. Think about what happens in your body and mind. You can feel your heart rate increase and your blood pressure rise. Am I right?
What do we do in that moment?
As many of you know, I am a moderator for the non-profit Braver Angels, which teaches skills for effective dialogue across political differences.
Recently, Braver Angels has developed an e-course for posting politics on social media. I took the course, and here are a few things I learned:
- Remember that on social media you do not see people’s faces or hear their voices, which means that empathy goes down. Instead, imagine yourself face-to-face with the person. Would you say the same things? If not, consider rewording your message.
- Don’t share personal negative feelings toward anyone you are communicating with online. Online and in-public is one of the worst forms of conflict management. If you care about the relationship, pick up the phone or reach out privately. If you the relationship is not of importance to you, ignore the comment and move on.
- If you can handle it emotionally, follow some people who disagree with you for the purpose of learning about them, not responding to them.
- Fact-check your information before sharing broadly. Give context and sources where possible.
- If you respond to posts, acknowledge the other person’s view before disagreeing: “I hear you that you’re concerned about election security. My own view is…”
- Ask for clarification: “Before I respond, could you clarify what you mean by…?”
- When posting strong views, share them from a personal perspective: “Because of my personal experience, I have strong views on X issue.”
I could share many more, but I highly encourage you to sign up for the Braver Angels e-course on social media and politics: https://braverangels.org/what-we-do/skills-for-social-media/
AND, I’m moderating a Braver Angels course on July 10 called “Skills for Bridging the Divide” where you will learn skills for listening and speaking to the “other side!” It’s online and FREE. Sign up here: https://braverangels.org/event/skills-for-bridging-the-divide-workshop-hybrid-online/
My invitation to you: The next time you post on social media, consider how you want to show up. As the Braver Angels motto goes: You don’t moderate your opinions; you moderate your rhetoric.