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Friday, October 05, 2012

How to alienate friends and frustrate people

Yesterday I got into a long conversation on Facebook with several of my friends. At my last check it was up to 75 comments and they spanned the gamut of thoughts on the topic. However, one of the comments was:
"wow...great conversation, totally changed my view point...said no one ever after a facebook debate like this!"
I may be the minority in this, but I have had my view changed, numerous times, by having a conversation (or even a debate) on Facebook. I don't think it's bragging to say that I'm very good at eliciting comments and creating conversation (both online and offline). I have friends who believe wildly different things and they all got together and had a civil discussion about one of the most divisive topics in our current sphere. So, how did I do it?

First, let me point out what is not working that I see on Facebook.

  • Posting scripture quotes and references. Though it's good to share the bible with people, a status update on Facebook probably isn't the best place for it. You will immediately shut down conversation from anyone who might disagree with you. 
  • Posting long status updates. It doesn't matter if it's your devotional thoughts for the day or your opinion on the current political climate or why you think your sports team will beat the other sports team in the upcoming sports match. If it's longer than two lines, it probably won't get much response. 
  • Posting one-sided questions. If your status update takes a side from the outset you probably won't get much discussion. You might get supporters proclaiming their support of your thoughts and opponents proclaiming their opposition, but you won't people exploring the space between support and opposition. 
  • Posting unfair, poorly researched or partisan statements. If your status assumes that half of all people are stupid, then it's probably not going to open up much dialog. Our social-political discussions are often reduced to the statement: "anyone with half-a-brain would think like me." If your base assumption is that opponents can't possess the same mental faculties that you do, then you will never have an open discussion. 
What do you see on Facebook that's just not working? 

I'll let you know how I'm able to have meaningful, transforming, thoughtful and kind Facebook conversations in the next post. 


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