The trouble with online conversations

Real life conversations are always good. Always. By conversing with others you learn new things, clarify your own thoughts and have the chance to share what you believe too.

It’s usually a win/win situation. As long as you are happy  to listen to others’ opinions and conduct yourself with respect, it’s all good. You both walk away with a new perspective and go on with your lives with new musings to ponder.

But when it comes to online conversations things aren’t always so clear cut. In some cases it seems it’s more of a free-for-all rather than true two-way communication.

Stools and Bar [Unsplash 6TjIJK0uSJWtQUZuQWMW_58400023]

I’ve seen countless posts, articles and status updates online attract so much vitriol which I’m sure would not be directed at the author in real life. In fact I’ve stopped reading the comments on major news and magazine blogging sites just because they are often filled with so much hate and disrespect towards the author and towards other commenters. It’s really very unnecessary.

I suspect a lot of this is due to the written word being stark on the page. Words in print lack the meaning of words accompanied by the nuance of body language, gestures, tone or facial expression. It’s easier to misinterpret the tone of what is written compared to what is voiced verbally.

Recently there have been a couple of questions posed by respected bloggers that attracted controversy. They did not attract horrible comments – everyone was very respectful – but there was some outcry at why the questions were asked in the first place. There was misinterpretation and lack of understanding.

It’s all well and good to ask a question online and so easy to fire back a reply from behind the comfort of your screen. But do you really understand the question being asked? Do you really know where the person asking it is coming from? Do you stop to think a moment before you respond?

I tend to steer away from controversy as I don’t like ruffling feathers or being called out on what I say. I am careful in what I put online for this very reason – I want to be happy with my words. I want to be proud of owning them. I would also hate for people to misinterpret what I say and feel upset because of my inability to express where I am coming from.

Yes, I don’t always have the most exciting blog or social media pages as a result, but I’m happy and comfortable and content.

Thankfully there are wonderful people out there who do have the guts to go out on a limb and have those conversations. I’m in awe of them. Please, keep on having them for those of us who can’t.

As for the trouble with online conversations, I don’t have an answer. Short of thinking twice before you post a question or status and taking a moment to breathe and centre yourself before replying to anything online.

Remember – the internet IS forever.

Sharing my confused ramblings with the gang for #IBOT.

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17 Responses

  1. It is very hard to put the natural tone of real conversation into the written word. In fact, it is an art form; which makes it hard for most people to get it right. I think we all need to remember our manners online, many seem to forget them!
    Jodi Gibson (JF Gibson Writer) recently posted..What is self-actualization?

  2. Vanessa says:

    I think when you spend a lot of time online it’s easy to forget that:
    a) how permanent your words can be
    b) that not everyone knows you enough to take the words the way you meant it
    What I’m loving is how many posts like this that I’m seeing. There has been a lot of friction but a lot of people learning from it – which just makes me love blogging and the people in it even more.
    Vanessa recently posted..Finding My Bliss

    • Kirsty says:

      It certainly made me think Vanessa. I’ve always been circumspect online but I was caught out once with a random comment that I left on another blog many moons ago that ended up offending someone in my real life (and quite rightly too). I hope more people take this to heart and start thinking more carefully about their online footprint.

  3. Hugzilla says:

    *sigh* This is all too true. I’ve even seen really trivial threads turn back on the author. Like, really trivial threads about things that DO NOT MATTER. Kindness matters, people. Kindness, compassion and a sense of humour can take you a long way.
    Hugzilla recently posted..Case Study of Patient X: The Thermomix Viral Epidemic

  4. Denise says:

    We need to be kind and respectful everywhere, both online and off. If only we could take ourselves a little less seriously, the world would be a far nicer place.
    Denise recently posted..5 ways to silence your inner critic

  5. I’ve sort of written about the same thing today, but from the point of view that I get sick of being careful what I say because everyone seems to easily offended today but not everything is about them!! I’m no offensive but it’s easily to be without even knowing! Great post and yes the internet is for life. Em – also visiting as part of #teamIBOT
    Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me recently posted..Is it time to get over ourselves?

    • Kirsty says:

      This issue can definitely be viewed from both sides. At the crux of it lies the reality of free speech. We should all have the right to express our views but I find, online particularly, that people seem to be less tolerant and more forward in expressing their alternate views. Which is all well and good until it becomes a war of words. I don’t take offence to much at all myself but sadly others do. Kudos to those (like you Em) with the guts to tell is how it is. I genuinely wish I could x

  6. Maxabella says:

    I’m sure you know that I nodded and smiled through this whole post, Kirsty. Like you, I really hate ruffling feathers, but sometimes I just can’t seem to help myself. It’s a gnawing curiosity to ask people about what makes them tick, almost to ask them to stand up for their choices and educate me about something different to the way I do things – I just want to know! But you are so right: it’s so easy to have those conversations IRL and so difficult – very, very difficult – online. x
    Maxabella recently posted..Dealing with difficult people #11: Drama queens

    • Kirsty says:

      You were obviously in my thoughts while writing this Bron (and Kelly too). I wish it was easier to have meaningful and rewarding conversations online. It is possible but it seems to be a rarer commodity these days. I personally feel bad as I don’t have the fortitude to engage more in this way – but I am truly thankful for those who do. Who say what they think, own their words and create meaningful discussion. Keep on keeping on, my friend x

  7. This is a conversation that I’ve had quite a few times with friends IRL. When I first started blogging, I sensed that I accidentally annoyed the writer of a blog I was commenting on because she had misinterpreted my tone. I had absolutely no intention of annoying her and afterwards I became so careful to communicate tone effectively that I started using loads of exclamation marks and smiley faces in my comments (both things that I had not been used to doing beforehand). I’m often deeply shocked by the kind of comments that people write on online newspaper and magazine posts and for that reason, I have lost any desire I might once have had to be featured regularly on these kind of sites.
    Lizzy – Muddle-Headed Mamma recently posted..Rubbish Bin Art

  8. I also no longer read the social media comments section of many news sites as I know they will inevitably be full of name calling, judgement and nastiness. Misinterpreting the tone and meaning of the what and why of many pieces of writing is just so common. I agree with Jodi’s earlier comment, it really is a true art form to weave the natural tone of conversation into a piece of writing – something I’m certainly still working on!
    Lauren @ Createbakemake recently posted..Snickers Brownies

  9. Lisa says:

    I am similar Kirsty, I am very careful in what I write, which is kind of the opposite of why people blog isn’t it? I don’t always agree with the opinion being shared but tend to click away instead of commenting because in the past others do get heavy handed if you dare disagree with the POV or topic. You can disagree without being mean.
    Lisa recently posted..AWC Perth: Editor & Writer William Yeoman

  10. I’ve been trying to write a similar post lately too Kirsty, and I think you’ve said it the best.
    I won’t personally say anything controversial, but I do enjoy reading these controversies because they open my eyes to other view points. Especially some on the new pages. People can be brutal sometimes, but I always feel as if I’ve learnt a lot from it.
    EssentiallyJess recently posted..Lame is the New Black

  11. Zita says:

    I think there is a difference between being controversial and being downright rude. I am often shocked and amazed at what some people write online and wonder if they would say it in real life to someone’s face. (The scary thing is I think some of them would).
    I stay away and do not comment at all!
    Zita recently confess what’s in my fridge.

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