By Nick Savaidis
Communicating in a digital world is an act to be taken with caution. A typo here, awkward cadency there; and the whole thing can be misinterpreted. Then suddenly, the scent of the bandwagon draws a crowd and rotten tomatoes are being hurled through the cyber-air.
It’s fair to say I have received a few tomatoes to the face over the years, though I’ve tried to use them as opportunities to learn. Most of the time, at least. Because sometimes the fault does belong with me and my team members; sometimes we stuff up and choose to share posts that don’t align wholly with our values, or our grammar takes a detour along the way to delivering our message. But on other occasions, I’ve been left scratching my head and wondering why we bother because pleasing everyone is an impossibility. Yet communicating in a digital world is absolutely essential, and learning how to receive messages in a digital world is a crucial part of the process.
For many of us, we spend more hours amongst digital communities or social media platforms, than we do with our own friends or families. But in my opinion, dedicating hours, days and weeks of our lives to a community which you have tailored to replicate your own thoughts, likes and interests, is a dangerous community to be amongst. “Where all think alike, there is little danger of innovation,” said American author and environmental activist, Edward Abbey. And I tend to agree.
As users of social networks, we become cocooned in our own little bubble where everyone agrees, and those who suggest another side to an argument can be blocked, unfollowed or shot down in cyber flames. Our virtual worlds are curated to such an extent that we only receive news, ads, music and images which we have pre-approved, or complex algorithms assume we will like.
But the real world isn’t like that. We don’t all have the same theories and ideas, we don’t all see eye to eye. And there is real and tangible value to differences which I think is being undervalued online.
A robust discussion over local politics or current affairs is a healthy and meaningful thing to do, as long as you’re not stooping to low-level name-calling and hair-pulling. Having to listen to “that uncle” go on about life in the old days or his take on welfare payments can be painful, but can also be an opportunity to create understanding. With compassion and patience, it’s entirely possible that he might go away with a better idea of why you disagree, and you might understand more about the life events which led him to these opinions.
There is value in listening, even when you don’t agree. And if we lose the ability to listen and question, then we lose the ability to progress and grow.
As followers of our brand and users of online platforms, I encourage each and every one of you to read different opinions and to allow a little bit of controversy into your cyber worlds. And most importantly, instead of instantly blocking or unfollowing content based on a single post or share, learn how to receive messages that you don’t actually agree with. Take a breath before responding, consider the overall picture, remember the manners your family taught you, and understand that everyone has the right to a difference of opinion. Opposing views make the world go round, albeit on a bumpy circuit.