Find us on Google+

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Conversation vs. Conversion - Online

In online forum, when a conversation devolves into arguing and then from arguing into nasty insults, it's called a flame war. For a conversation to escalate to this scale in real life, it takes quite a bit of time and energy, but online it can happen in moments. Instead of seeing opportunities for conversation, internet provides countless chances at competition and attempts at conversion. It's a very polarizing place.

True conversation needs several things to happen.

  • You need to be known. You can't use a pseudonym or screen name that obscures who you are. You need to have your words tied to your identity. 
  • You need to listen. If anything, the internet has taught us how to be adept at skimming lots of text (you're skimming right now, admit it), but if you want to engage in real dialog, start by listening and then reflect what you heard in your own words.
  • Write like you would speak. Most of us don't shout very often, so avoid using the Caps Lock key -- the internet's equivalent of shouting. If you aren't actually laughing out loud, don't use the abbreviation (lol) to make it seem as if you are. And easy way to test what you've written for conversational tone is to just read it out loud. If it sounds natural, then it's probably good to go. 
  • Make space for other people's opinions. Instead of making absolute statements, make qualified statements. Talk about what you think and feel. For example, don't say: "The [Political Party] are ruining everything with their [Policy or Action]." Instead say: "I'm frustrated by how this [Policy or Action] is affecting me." See, you aren't attacking people or points of view, just expressing your opinion.
  • Be willing to be wrong. This might be the most difficult step in conversation since we are all sure that we're right. But your whole life you've been wrong. Your parents corrected you, your teachers corrected you and your bosses corrected you. It's alright to let your peers correct you to. You aren't always right -- and neither am I -- so don't try to be. 
What else is necessary for true conversation online? 

No comments: