Handling Social Media Fights

Handling Social Media Fights

By Madelyn Collins

Pursuing a journalism and electronic media major at the University of Tennessee. Teach and perform dance on the side as a living.


No matter how civil you are online a social media fight can be unavoidable. Here are a few tips on having a civil dissuasion instead of an all-out comment war.

Living in the “Internet Age” has its pros and cons. On the positive side, people can experience other cultures from all over the world, follow their favorite celebrities’ day-to-day lives, and stay in constant connection with their friends. On the other hand, there is a constant threat of exposure to negative material too. From news sites reporting a string of tragedies to the major FOMO from seeing others live a ‘better’ life than you. Yet, the negativity that is plaguing a large number of digital screens lately is social media fights.

Twitter wars. Facebook arguments. Throwing shade with an ‘@’. Every second there are ripe moments for people to engage in heated fights. In 2012 Pew did a study to observe the number of fights that happen on Facebook. Pew concluded 15% of adults and 22% of teens had participated in a way that ended their friendship with others.

Dr. Dawn Branley, a health and social psychologist, did an interview with NewStatesmen about the effects of online arguing. Dr. Branley points out that the back and forth action of digital fighting can be a rush. It excites strong emotions that can lead to mass amounts of dopamine released. This dopamine is addicting and it can cause users to increase the intensity of the fights. Dr. Branley warns of this addictive cycle. “Although it is possible that some users may find arguing online to be a form of catharsis – i.e., a release of negative emotion – some studies suggest that ranting or venting our anger online actually appears to intensify the negative feelings rather than reduce them.” Psychologists like Dr. Branley and others are adamant about people needing to stop participating in these negative exchanges for the sake of their mental health.

However, when the urge to comment is too juicy to resist. Instead of starting a conflict, learn ways to start a respectful discussion instead. Here are a few tips to help you discuss your opinion without it turning into a toxic encounter.

Sleep on It

It takes no trouble at all to read an offensive post and immediately write your first thought. Before you share a piece of your mind, think about it first. Temitope Ajileye, a research student at Oxford, wrote about this concept in his article, “How to Discuss Social Issues On Social Media and Not Go Crazy”.Ajileye wrote, “… when you wait, you might find a better response or realize that your comment is not needed at all. This will result in a higher quality of debate.” So take a few minutes, a few hours, or even a day to ponder about the post. Ask these questions, what does this mean to me? Why would this person post this? Would they actually care about my opinion? Is it worth my time to comment? When you pause before you act you are less likely to regret your decisions later. Sleeping on it forces you to plan out a calmer response as well if you do decide to respond.

Will this affect me in the future?

Before you write that perfect comeback that offends their pride, their family, and their cow think about the question, “Will this affect me in the future?” It’s effortless to use name calling or use a slur at the moment, but who else might view the comment other than the person you are arguing with. John Colucci, a Social Media Director, wrote an article about handling media conflicts. He said, “When I’m about to post something on social media, I try to keep these three thoughts in mind:

1. Will this get me fired from my job?

2. What would Mom, Dad, or my closest friends think about it?

3. Do I believe in what I’m posting about?”

Winning an online fight with colorful language is not worth risking your future. So before you hit that last key on your keyboard, consider the future consequences. Writing a nicer comment not only will help you in the future, but can also help diffuse a fight.

Recognize the bots!

A user is writing hateful and problematic posts and you’ve had enough! Before you crack your knuckles and start typing, check the user’s account first. There has been an increasing number of fake accounts online. Just this year The New York Times reported Facebook had removed 652 fake accounts in a day for causing multiple fights. When a user is being super negative or antagonizing check the user’s profile first. Investigate the account’s information section. If the account has no information available or the “person” recently made the account it is probably a bot. Once you recognize this, save your time by ignoring it or revealing its identity in the comments so others won’t fall for the trick.

In the end, the real key to handling conflict online is to view yourself as currency. Your time is valuable and you only have so much of it to spend. Spend it wisely so you’re not caught in an endless tornado of notifications and ‘@’s.

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