Happy Trails On The Facebook Freeway
I’m not sure if you are on Facebook, but I am. In fact all of the JustB Team are on Facebook, and we each spend varying amounts of time chatting to others on our personal and business pages, as well as on the JustB Page. We are total pros, in a virtual non-skanky sense. We are online a lot of the time.
It is from this viewpoint that I have noticed how fraught online communication can be, and how easy it is to be misunderstood. Personal emails need just the right tone and smiley faces to get my voice and message across. Tweets need kisses and hugs to soften the 140 characters into something friendlier. (They DO SO!) Facebook posts need a careful read through before hitting POST. (If I remember!) And Facebook is what I particularly want to talk about.
It seems that sometimes our natural default as a Facebook reader might be ‘Who is doing what thing today?’ But it also might be ’What the HECK are you saying now?’ It might even be ‘Who do you think you are?!’ , ‘What am I missing out on now?’, ‘Eye-Roll!’, ‘Not YOU again’ , ‘What amazing/annoying thing are you up to today’ or even ‘What are YOU like?!’ Sometimes it’s ‘I’m on your page to see what kind a doofus you are making of yourself today!’ Hm.
Facebook is our personal playground, where we get to hang out with our pals and family as well as LIKE the pages we identify with. I get that. It’s rad. The way I see the Facebook thing is like this: We want to be sure to scoop up all our opinions and knowledge and cuteness/cleverness and express them in a short burst of sentences which best befit our experiences or personalities, to people we know or may not. Phew. That sounds complex already, right? It is.
Sometimes we might not fully consider what we are posting, because we just want to be ourselves and we figure others will ‘get’ where we are coming from. We probably SHOULD be thinking about these rules for posting:
- Could someone misinterpret what I am saying?
- Am I posting in anger?
- Could someone feel disrespected?
- Have I fact checked this item that I am sharing?
But we just want to write stuff and be ourselves and not have to censor ourselves, yes? And we want to do it swiftly, too. Sometimes we want to do it snarkily too, apparently. Discussing mental health and the lack of empathy and responsibility in online communication is researcher James Heathers, of the University of Sydney…
“Social distance can cause a 55-year-old climate change sceptic with a job and a mortgage to behave like a spastic donkey with strange malicious behaviour.”
He said the quality of online conversations in general seemed to be worsening by the day, and had now turned into a competition to see who can yell “urrgggh lame” the loudest.
“There’s no turn-taking, or reacting like there is in face-to-face communication,” he said. “The conversational structure is completely broken and there’s no thoughtful consideration of issues.”
He obviously was not thinking about the donkeys feeling disrespected, but I totally identify with his observations.
Often we are so pushed for time we don’t even take the time to read and consider the thing we are replying/responding to carefully. (You might even be skimming over this now!) Time is of the essence, especially if we’re taking a quick squiz at FB while we make dinner or watch telly or sit on the train. We are amazing filters of information. WE are the Information Super Highway, skimming over things and settling on the bits we want. We are on the Social Media Autobahn, built to travel in fewer characters at breakneck speeds we would not consider elsewhere. Sometimes we can’t be bothered to read through the comments on a post (which may offer further clarification/tone) before we touch type our speedy response. That’s the nature of the Facebook Freeway. It’s like the fast food version of communication, only with more nutritious potential if used with care.
There are potholes in Facebook’s Freeway of Love, however. The convenient speedy-quick means that we have to be REALLY good at judging the tone and intent of the short bursts we are reading. If we are on a friend’s page, chances are we might KNOW them quite well. We might read their words and hear their voice and see them on their couch in their sneakers sipping wine with us and feel a burst of love and acceptance. Because we really KNOW them, we GET them. Go us!
Things can go a bit pear-shaped when we are on a Facebook Business Page (the traditional home of the snarky comment!) We don’t have such a vested interest in being polite, because we don’t see the ‘page’ as a person, and we may not know the person who is posting on behalf of that page or brand. I guess Facebook is just like real life in this regard, with a bit of awkward shuffling about and getting to know one another. Sometimes we REALLY want to introduce ourselves and be heard SO much we forget our manners and we often forget to LISTEN, too.
I think it can be hard to listen online. Often the only sound Facebook makes is the click click of the keyboard or the gentle rustling of a packet of accompanying biscuits. Oddly, the other people in the conversation may be clicking and rustling too, but despite possible similarities, the conversation is no where near as compelling or important to us as a face to face would be.
But there is the challenge. Hush your packets. Silence your clicking, just for a minute. Whether it’s a business page or a personal profile, take the time to scroll through the conversations that are happening. Imagine the people on the other end of those crazy cables. They are in your neighbourhood, or in your state, or in your town… or in your world at the very least. They are people, just like you, eating biscuits, clicking keys, wanting to be heard and trying to express something. Often they have the best of intentions (OK. Not always! But often!) and they just want their point of view to be heard. They just want to be listened to, by people like YOU.
Let’s take the time to think about those intentions and to try and decipher those short commenty sentences into a whole person. Let’s put our own point of view with kind consideration of theirs. Let’s publish with goodwill and kind hearts. And let’s read with empathy, sincerity and open minds. Let’s not skim over things, ignoring the intention and tone in favour of cutting to the chase and quickly saying our piece. Let’s note the roots of the conversation, think about who is in it and what they are saying, and add our piece with similar humour or thoughtfulness or just as ourselves. Let’s not kill the conversation with our comments, let’s add to it and encourage others to take part.
Let’s push for kindness and empathy, just like we would in face to face conversation. Let’s turn our back on the swift and snarky. Let’s forgo the ‘express at all costs’ for the ‘listen, think and THEN post.’ Let’s be sure that the need to say SOMETHING does not over-ride the much nicer urge to actually connect with another human being in a meaningful way. I will start from….. NOW!
PS : Are you in?
PPS : Speaking of Facebook : You could submit a photo and win $300 : Find out about that here.
PPPS : I am using the royal we, but I KNOW that perhaps you are the most well mannered, best listening Facebook supremo! I would love to hear about how you handle yourself on Facebook and the things you see.
PPPPS : Have you seen some bad behaviour on Facebook? Or have you felt misunderstood? Have you ever posted something and wish you hadn’t?