Everything we post in a digital space has the potential to reach countless people. And while a post may not reach millions, it will undoubtedly reach someone we never thought about while creating it. Someone we forgot was following us. Someone we don’t know. Someone we assume is on the same page with us, but who actually sees the world very differently.
We don’t usually intend to offend or hurt others when we post strong opinions on social media, but we often fail to consider how our posts might be viewed by someone with a different perspective. We forget that people from a wide variety of backgrounds, with a wide variety of opinions will see our posts.
We also forget that each person’s newsfeed is different. A post that seems reasonable and relevant in response to what we’re seeing, can appear strident or insensitive to a friend who’s seeing a completely different combination of perspectives with different frequency.
In the vast, chaotic sea of people and content, it’s not always clear who a comment was intended for … who a post was directed at … or what was meant by either. Lack of facial expressions, tone of voice, social cues, or sufficient context adds to the confusion. Misunderstandings abound. Tempers easily flare. With so much negativity in digital spaces, even the most mundane, simple statement runs the risk of being interpreted as a mean or snarky.
Too often, the people we exclude, offend, or hurt don’t tell us how our posts make them feel. One or two might voice displeasure or disagreement, but they are quickly shouted down by the many who agree with our position. They aren’t likely to voice disagreement with us again, but they will keep reading, forming an opinion in silence.
Digital kindness takes all this into consideration when choosing what to post and how to respond. To minimize miscommunication, hurt feelings, and broken relationships, we must be mindful of how context, the public nature of social media activity, and the lack of facial expressions, tone of voice, and visible reactions impact the ways in which we communicate with one another in digital spaces.
Excerpted from Digital Kindness: A New Hope for Humanity by Lauren Hug (anticipated release in Winter of 2016).
Lauren Hug, J.D., LL.M., is a speaker, author, and strategist. She is the founder of HugSpeak, a digital marketing and advertising firm, and author of two business skills books and a forthcoming book on digital kindness. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.