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Did you see what she posted? Tips for Teenage Tiffs, Fights and Quarrels Online

browsing-15824_1280I am standing in the checkout line at a clothing store the other day when I overheard two teenage girls discussing a recent fight they had with another girl, “Emma” on social media. Apparently, Emma tweeted an ambiguous quote about being a bad friend, and one of the girls knew she was directing the comment at her, despite Emma not using her name, because of the pictures she had recently posted with a boy Emma use to date. The other girl responded that Emma always puts stuff online but won’t ever say things to your face. The girl who was offended by Emma’s ambiguous quote responded, ” Yeah I know, I am seriously about to unfriend her...”

The interaction between these two girls brought up several concerns for how teens interact online.

The first concern is jumping to conclusions about what you read online. The two girls had no idea whether Emma was talking about them or not when she posted the quote. The girl assumed it was about her and rather than asking Emma directly; she jumped to conclusions.

The second concern piggybacks off the first. One girl stated, “Emma always does this stuff online but won’t say things to your face.” Again, there isn’t direct communication to check out those assumptions. On one side of the coin, the internet and social media gives people who are shy, introverted or even conflict averse, a voice. This can be good. On this other side of the coin it can be bad. This leads to my 3rd concern.

My third concern with this interaction is that without any dialogue between Emma and the girl who is offended, Emma is willing to “unfriend” her and end their friendship. The public nature of social media and the peer pressure to take action not only leads to false conclusions but hurt feelings, misunderstood intentions, and unnecessary conflict.

An article by Amanda Lenhart from Pew Research Center highlights some interesting statistics regarding social media, conflict and friendships. Lenhart shares, “About one-in-four teens (26%) have fought with a friend because of something that first happened online or because of a text message.” Another statistic Lenhart expounds, “58% of teens who are on social media or have a cell phone have unfriended or unfollowed someone that they used be friends with.”

Technology brings a lot of good to the world, but the conflict I overheard is a part of the bad it brings. The conflict discussed brings up a concern for the rising adolescent generation who have never known the world without cell phones and the internet. The majority of teen’s interactions appears to be in these two forums. Consider this. When vague comments set you off, or you view a picture online that stirs up drama, or you are unfriending anyone you are in conflict with, what will come of that relationship? If you were on the receiving end of being unfriended or unliked, how would you have preferred that friend to have handled the situation?

The best advice: Go offline; Put Down the Phone; and Have a Face – To -Face Conversation.

I am not suggesting remove yourself from social media and completely go off the grid, which for many of you teenagers would experience as a form of torture. However, we see information online and jump to conclusions; take what you read and see it at face value. It is important to remember that you have more confidence to say whatever you think and feel online and in text than face – to – face. The ending of a friendship online does not resolve the conflict offline. Just because you can no longer see your friend’s statuses, tweets, or photos doesn’t mean you don’t see them in person and still have to deal with the perceived conflict.

Quick tips:

* People are more willing to talk openly with you when you are one – on- one. Pull the person aside privately and directly ask if you have done something to offend them. Simply ask “I saw a post and wanted to know, have I done something to make you upset?”

* Raising a conflict face-to-face makes many people uneasy. After the initial inquiry, regardless of whether the post was about you or not, then simply state,” I just wanted to make sure so we could clear the air.”

* Don’t be so quick to unfriend/unfollow. It is a nice feature to have at the click of a button, but impulsively severing friendships can cause more damage and be harder to repair.

Technology and social networks have connected everyone in so many amazing ways. It has also changed how we communicate, interpret and interact creating positive and negative impacts.

 

Abigail R. C. McManus M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management

Apprentice

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