Tech Etiquette

Empathy and Conflict Resolution, As Explained by Twitter’s Help Section

Unclear on the official rule if faves are flirting.
Twitter at 5:00 pm. (Photo: Flickr)

Twitter at 5:00 pm. (Photo: Flickr)

On Twitter, the laws are loose, the smack talk is rampant and the passive-aggressive hate tweets deliver a such a rush. And since many of us are spending most of our waking moments on the site acting like dicks to each other,  we sometimes lose our grasp on the fact that our 140 character diatribes have meaning and can hurt other (weak) people’s feelings.

Twitter, the omnipresent guidance counselor who doesn’t offer you lollipop after your post-session brain dump, has posted some guidelines on its Help Center to help users feel feelings. It offers a free masterclasses in feeling empathy, conflict resolution, and even decoding what can be considered offensive content.

So, what is this “empathy“? Twitter explains that since most of us are spending most of our time, our IRL relationships might suffer because “sometimes these interactions leave our acquaintances and ourselves hurt and disappointed.”

For starters, Twitter helpfully warns that our IRL relationships might suffer from our online snarking, because “sometimes these interactions leave our acquaintances and ourselves hurt and disappointed.”

So just like in offline life, you should set “rules and expectations” of conduct for yourself and to find the correct tone. “Our Tweets and posts set expectations for how people interact with us and how they expect us to respond.”

Non-verbal cues are also essential but since we’re all typing profusely on our keyboards over there on Twitter about our latest hate-read, it’s hard to find out if someone is IRL rolling their eyes. But there’s a solution, this thing called “empathy:”

However, others find that during online conversation, imagining what the other person is feeling or how they are reacting helps them understand the other point of view better and act with more empathy. Emoticons and adjectives describing feelings that go along with the text are also helpful in communicating the whole message to someone we’re speaking with online.

Now that we’ve figured that out, how are Twitter users supposed to resolve conflicts like, for instance, which recent New York Times piece was the dumbest? (FTR, it’s the one about dad jeans.)

That’s where the conflict resolution section comes in. That page suggests that online relationships are ripe with disagreements, often “instigated by someone who is trying to get attention or create controversy.” There’s your textbook definition of “trolling” if anyone needed it.

In three points, Twitter says to get your facts straight, administer a self-assessment test and understand what the other person is saying (cough, empathy, cough) and to gauge your anger levels. “If you’re still angry, it might be good to take a break to cool off by closing the web browser or application, stepping away from the computer or putting down the smart phone,” it helpfully suggests.

Lastly, weigh the outcomes since nothing on Twitter is ever worth fighting about.

 Though this can be difficult to do given online conversations and etiquette, it is important to ask ourselves some questions and be thoughtful about how our planned actions or comments will turn out. Who can see our response? Will their involvement help or hurt the situation? If we ignore this, will the matter fizzle out and be forgotten? What will happen if we draw more attention to the issue?

If all else fails, cry.

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(H/T Jon Eiseman who subtweeted himself.)

Follow Jordan Valinsky on Twitter or via RSS. jvalinsky@observer.com