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Social Media Civil Discourse and the Fear of Missing Out A guest post by Amy Whitfield

Written by Ed Stetzer Feed on . Posted in Ed Stetzer

Our fear of missing out affects how we discuss with others on social media.

When I entered freshman year at a women’s liberal arts college, I heard a great deal about the benefits of single-gender education for females. One piece of evidence was interesting. We were told that in a classroom with both men and women, the men were statistically quicker to respond, and therefore the women did not get as much opportunity to interact in class. This advanced the idea that in our particular classrooms we would be freer to participate.

I never heard the source of that data, and had no proof that it was true. But it had an effect on all of us. First, it settled us in our environment and made us glad to be there. But second, it empowered us to speak. Perhaps it freed us from feeling we had to fight for the floor, but it also gave confidence that the thoughts within us were worth verbalizing. From day one I hit the ground running to jump in and make my ideas known. But I quickly learned a lesson.

Just because speech was empowered did not mean inarticulate or ungracious speech was welcome. If I spoke up in class without adequate preparation, without clarity, or without kindness, my professors would quickly shut me down. I suppose I could have responded by withdrawing, but in small seminar-style classes that wasn’t an option. Even as I maintained my views, I had to learn how to be articulate and respect my conversation partners— listening to them and responding with grace.

This is a lesson I return to time and again, particularly in a new day where conversation happens in a form I never imagined. Social media has changed everything—it is a two-sided coin, capable of beauty and horror.

Social Media and the "Speaker's Corner"

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