Grumpy on Social Media?
As I browse through some conversations on social media, I am noticing that there seem to be a lot of grumpy people out there, taking things personally, and attacking each other at the slightest provocation. I am going to assume that most of us who are active on social media are part of the group of workers who are not able to return to work under level 4 rules, and are therefore still spatial distancing at home, and isolated from most of the people we usually socialise with.
Three stages of reaction to prolonged isolation have been identified, as “a first stage of heightened anxiety, a second stage of settling down to routine marked by depression, and a third stage of anticipation marked by emotional outbursts, aggressiveness, and rowdy behaviour.” 1
At this stage many of us are experiencing powerful emotions like anxiety, frustration, impatience and fear around what the future holds for us. It is easy to become caught in an ever tightening spiral of increasing tension, and this makes it so much easier to bite off somebody else’s virtual head. Anger feels so much more powerful than depression and fear. There may even be an element of addiction to it. Long-term, where are these angry outbursts going to take us? Do we really want to go there?
I think we need to give ourselves and each other a good measure of grace as we honestly ask ourselves some hard questions:
- What are we actually feeling underneath the anger?
- Can we do something constructive with our strong emotions?
- Is an angry outburst on social media going to bring us closer to this constructive outcome? Should we take a break from social media, and spend the time doing some uncomfortable inner work?
- What strong emotions are our partners in the social media interactions feeling? What non-ideal or even stressful situations are they relating from?
- What triggers us, and why? Does this influence numerous interactions with many people? Could we choose to respond differently? What options can we explore?
- If we did not jump to conclusions and to offence as our first option, what could the kindest interpretation of the words of our communication partner be?
- Would it be possible to check in with the other person one-to-one to find out what they really meant?
- Is it a misunderstanding that can be cleared up quickly? Could it have been a typo? (we all have stories to tell about autocorrect!)
- Can we tell the other person how the message came across without blaming and shaming?
- Could we connect with other people using video calls so that we have more body language to make our communication clearer?
- Do we currently have the capacity for relational or inner work if necessary? Would this involve a mediator/coach/friend/professional?
Some conflict is unavoidable, but misunderstandings are much more likely on social media. We need to learn to handle our own strong emotions and conflict well, and find ways to build social cohesion and not further fragmentation. Let’s explore all the avenues open to us…and ask others for help on the journey.
1 From the book “Living Aloft: Human Requirements for Extended Spaceflight”