Let’s be honest—most of us are guilty of committing a Facebook faux pas or two. The worst offense? Netiquette experts are warning us away from the keyboard when it comes to hot-button topics, in particular. Turns out, it’s not just a sign you’re sharing way too much on Facebook; research says you might respond differently to an opinion you read online.
At least, that’s according to a new study published in the journal Psychological Science. Researchers at UC Berkeley and University of Chicago researchers recruited 300 volunteers to read, watch a video, or listen to arguments about controversial topics. Then, the participants answered questions about the opinions with which they disagreed.
The results? Turns out, people who listen or watch someone speak opposing views out loud were less likely to characterize the speaker as “uninformed or heartless.” Meanwhile, those who read the arguments were more dismissive of opposing opinions.
Some experts chalk this up to the perceived anonymity of the world wide web. “People are a lot bolder on Facebook than they are in real life,” says Wendy Mencel, director of the Canadian School of Protocol and Etiquette told Reader’s Digest. “There is a disconnect between what they’re writing and how they’re coming across, and they forget that their words can offend people. Social media opens us up to more scrutiny, and we have to be conscious of what message we’re projecting to the world.”
In light of these findings, the researchers advise people to work out their differences by speaking with each other in person instead of firing up the keyboard. While it’s easy for tempers to flare over social media, meeting face-to-face can smooth out disagreements and even create compromise, they say.
So the next time your fingers are itching to join a particularly passionate Facebook debate, consider scheduling a lunch date or phone call with the person, instead. Trust us, it could save your reputation—and your relationships. But you’re not off the hook just yet, Facebook users. You should never, ever do these things on Facebook, either.