A few decades from
now, humans will called Social Networking conversations as the "Web of
Babble". Millenniums of social evolution, perhaps helped us learn social
etiquette when communicating in person. Add to it actions such as smiling,
shaking hands, observing the other persons facial responses etc which for the
most part were non-verbal. Then came writing to each other and we learned the
conventions of writing to each other. Then we learned newer devices -
telegrams, telephone, cell phone and even televised speeches.
True we had
disagreements in person, in writing and over the phone; true wars were fought
over words and people were controlled from speaking and still are in some
places; and deals were made over all these formats. Families were united and
friendships were made. How many of us remember phone bills from talking to
friends in the 90's.
Fast forward to
today; we are fortunate to have a plethora of communication devices. We have
telephony that is so cheap and speech quality that is so good. We also have
social networking. We freely talk to strangers and unlike in a dinner party,
when we shake hands, make eye contact, listen and make a call on who we are
going converse with; we now can comment on thread of thought from someone. We
tend to make a call on someone and make impressions in our minds; and I am
wondering if brain scans while actively participating in Facebook conversations
will lead to findings on how these impressions are made and perhaps remembered
the next time we discuss with the same stranger!
We humans are now dealing with a web of life; of
out of network people making connections over the internet. We are making
"friends" in minutes and disagreeing freely over a comment. We tend
to like comments and even tend to form patterns of likes! We now can love or
wow a post on Facebook; which is an evolution in emoting beyond emoticons.
We are evolving but
time is revolving fast. We have a barrage of information we process with
microsecond responses. Perhaps, in years from now we will have Etiquettes
defined for social networking. Perhaps, we can apply some of our normal
communication modes to Facebook conversations to make public participation more
In the book Crucial
Conversations, the authors recommend finding ways to keep a conversation safe.
If a conversation is not safe, people either tend to be quiet (flight) or act
out in violence (fight). But if the goal is to increase the collective pool of
knowledge, a conversation can be meaningful even in case of disagreement if the
first goal is keep the conversation safe for the participants. Which means,
mental visualization that we are in a Starbucks in a line. The person next to
us spills some coffee while picking it up and even if we are in the midst of an
intense discussion, we instinctively might say, "Are you ok"? We
might say, "You first" to the person who entered the line at the same
How do we make
online conversations effective? Not
necessarily in a, "I am going to say only pleasing things" way but in
a "I am going to have a meaningful conversation".
Perhaps, we can take
advantage of the fact that we cannot talk over each in FB and read the words
carefully. Then perhaps we can apply a non-verbal filter i.e. do not read the
words with a set script in mind but read it like you would read a new book! Then
we could respond to each post in an effective way. We can respond with our read
on the book based on a fresh perspective.
Sure, we will have
disagreements. What's fun in life if each of us was a clone of each other.
What's fun in life to have a bunch of "Yes" people around us. It will
be like playing Chess with yourself. You know all the moves, but you can never
win and it gets boring real quick.
I do not have all
the answers and I think each of us can and will find our own answers. Next time
we read that comment that we want to go ballistic on, we could stop, take a
deep breath and say, "What do I really want in this conversation?".