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 have become ubiquitous within our culture. The pseudo sense of connectivity they provide can make sharing your feelings on the platforms seem normal.
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.”
Social media’s 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 chairwoman in the department of counseling at Northern Illinois University, highlighted three benefits of face-to-face conversations when trying to achieve successful conflict resolution:
• “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.”
• “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.’ ”
• “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.”