By: Michael Johnson, Member of The Mediation Centre’s Panel of Mediators
Certified International Mediator
Mediation Dispute Resolution
Social media is changing how society behaves at a pace that we just cannot fathom. We have embraced it with open arms, but have we taken three steps back to digest it and understand how societal social skills have been affected?
Disputes and conflict have increased over the years as social media has grown. Today we have an arsenal of social media applications to spout off on. I call this the Ghost Syndrome. People are more brazen to be straight to the point without any inhibitions and say exactly what they mean through the aid of these social media communication tools without physically being seen, thus we are a ghost. With the click of a few buttons we can offend a whole society, a global regime or our next door neighbor.
We feel empowered, or plain out ghostly, as we can do this in the privacy of our own space. We have lost the nature of face to face communication. Hand held devices are now the new weapon of choice. Social media has created the ghostly attack, leading individuals to be more brazen with their words and not understand the full effect of their actions. Physical face to face conversations, whether cheerful or uncomfortable, help to reduce conflict.
Conflict has increased around the globe, thus making mediators more critical to the resolution process. We have to remove the ghost and bring human dialogue back to the forefront.
Don’t get me wrong, I like social media and the ability to have an instant conversation with a colleague six countries away.
It is more important today that we manage the intrusion of social media and how it affects human behavior and the increased creation of conflict. It is easy now to type anything we want without understanding how it may affect cultural sensitivities.
In mediation we are trained to recognize cultural sensitivities, strained communications and the diminished aspects of respect. In mediation we set the foundation in telling all parties in the dispute to be respectful, polite, listen deeply and speak clearly and concisely. We say focus on the present not the past. If we took a minute to reflect on the past we would clearly see how the social media affect has created the Ghost Syndrome, how we have forgotten the communication skills of the past, and that the new ones of the future come with inherent conflict.
Resolving disputes begins with remembering the past and how our forefathers communicated among themselves. We will always have conflicts and there will always be mediators to facilitate those potential resolutions. We will always use social media, so we need to remember the Ghost Syndrome and how it has created stronger willed personalities at the flick of an electronic keyboard.
I will take a time out in mediation and ask the parties to simply put all of their devices away once a week for a few hours. I tell them that beyond the hot flashes during this exercise, they will survive and this will help them to communicate face to face, thus remembering they are not a ghost but rather individuals who at times need the comfort of face to face communication.
I was on a long ride a few years back and the passenger in the front seat was texting the passenger in the back seat, having a nondescript conversation. This placed a strong faith in me that mediation will be here for a long time, and ghosts will always be present on social media.