In last month’s post I talked about how great it was to have a dojo where we can try things out and failure doesn’t have real world consequences. We can train and grow, and only then take our new skills into the world. It is easy to forget how special such a place is in these times.
Imagine if there were a place where it seemed like there were no consequences. It feels like a safe place when we’re there. In this place we could say anything we wanted. There would be no normal social cues for us to react to, so if someone gets angry at us we just say more angry things back, even if it’s a friend, because it doesn’t feel real. Of course, there is such a place as this. We call it the internet. There are various psychological concepts explaining why people feel so free saying whatever they want online. One psychologist calls it the ‘online disinhibition effect’. Our normal social restrictions disappear when we take away the personal connection. It happens to people when they are in their cars too. We forget there are consequences outside of our seemingly safe bubble.
Security experts and psychologists study this phenomenon to better understand behavior. We should too. Unfortunately our computers and our phones are not safe bubbles or places where we can ‘try things out’ without consequences. While there is nothing wrong with taking a stand against something you don’t agree with, or stating your opinions, the ‘how’ and the ‘where’ of such statements can and do have results that we may or may not have intended.
I can’t express how valuable the advice was I received many years ago when it was suggested before responding to a sensitive e-mail to wait a couple hours, or even better, overnight, before hitting the send button. More than once I have woken up, looked at a draft and gone, “Ack! Why did I think THAT was a good idea?” and quickly hit the delete key. Creating more time and distance helped me let go of an emotional reaction. (Sound like any one of our elemental approaches?)
That is just one answer to a challenge everyone faces in this day and age. Social media and the online world in general isn’t a safe bubble. It is so easy to create unintended consequences. But it is also a treasure trove of learning opportunities. We can learn from our own mistakes, or course, but sometimes it is easier to see them in others. Whenever I see a post that generated a lot of reactions, I like to ask myself three questions about the original post:
- Did they get the reaction they wanted?
- If no, what could have been done differently?
- If yes, why would they want that reaction?
Some people want to make others angry. Some people want to make others suffer. We deal with the physical versions in the dojo. There, we know the goal is to go home healthy, happy and safe. That is ultimately the reaction we want when training. But what does success look like in other interactions? The elemental model works in these non-physical interactions too. We just want to make sure we’re getting the reactions we truly want. Studying what happens online and why gives us more opportunities to practice our To-Shin Do strategies everywhere.