Internet Conversations For Dummies
by Jason Wisdom
We have all witnessed internet conversations gone terribly wrong. Such interactions are becoming increasingly difficult to avoid. The phenomenon has caused many people to avoid/abandon social media altogether. Many others have simply started ignoring topics that they know are likely to spin out of control. That may seem like a wise decision, but I actually think it is a mistake. Let me explain.
I think the internet is actually an ideal training ground for developing your ability to talk about important issues. Having good conversations does not come naturally. We all need practice. The internet offers several unique opportunities for practicing good habits.* Here are my top 5.
1. You can screen your own thoughts. Lesson: You learn to be intentional.
Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to post everything that you type. Unlike face-to-face conversations, you can get your thoughts out, read over them, make edits, and then decide whether or not to post your comment. Also contrary to what you may think, it is absolutely not a waste of time to type out your thoughts and then simply elect not to post them. I do this A LOT. Sometimes you realize that you do not have anything indispensable to contribute to the conversation. Sometimes it just is not worth it. Even so, working out your thoughts will help to prepare you for future conversations. What is more, learning to screen your thoughts is vitally important for face-to-face interaction.
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2. You can do your research. Lesson: You learn to be informed.
The person that you are talking to on the internet might be really smart. OR, he might just be sitting in an office surrounded by books on the topic. That is one great benefit of digital communication. If you don’t know what to say, you can stop, do some research and then come back. That is a luxury that you would not be afforded in a heated face-to-face discussion. Is it “cheating” to do research in between comments? Only if the point of the point of the discussion is to determine who knows more off the top of their head. I have never been part of such a conversation. And who would enforce that rule anyway? On the other hand, if the point is to have an intelligent discussion and work toward finding the truth (as it should be), then you are really doing a disservice to everyone by staying in the dark. What is more, getting in the habit of being informed will improve your face-to-face conversations as well…