When a hot-button topic appears in his Facebook timeline, Steve Faktor, an author and business owner, says responses can take a few different forms.
There are people "who preach to the choir" and there are people who block or unfollow you if you bother them too much, he says. And "there are the fighters. They're going to start a heated debate where they end up alienating people."
Mr. Faktor says he has started stifling his more impulsive responses: "I have a mantra that I borrowed from the comedian Adam Carolla: If it doesn't make you money or it doesn't make you happy, don't do it. I would be three or four sentences in and I'd be like, 'Apply filter, apply filter.' "
In a summer packed with divisive world events such as fighting in the Gaza Strip, Ukraine, and Afghanistan, as well as heated domestic politics, Facebook news feeds are lighting up. Add to that the usual neighborhood gossip and debates about whether jazz is dead. The result is no small amount of tension and some creative efforts at social-media etiquette.
Ashley Day, a 42-year-old producer at a digital marketing company in Cincinnati, avoids friending people on Facebook if she suspects she'll find herself in a conflict with them. "I've never blocked or unfriended people because I'm really vigilant and persnickety about who I friend in the first place," she says.
Politically vocal participants on social networks tend to fall at the extremes of the ideological perspective, according to a 2012 study by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project. They're actually in the minority of social-network users. The Pew study found that when most users disagree with others' posts, 66% usually ignore them.
Beth Fisher-Yoshida, director of the Negotiation and Conflict Resolution program at Columbia University in New York, says that social media calls for spontaneity, brevity and an understanding that communication is happening without a lot of context.Facebook has come under scrutiny in recent months for an experiment that aimed to manipulate users' emotions.
Asim Manizada, a 23-year-old economic consultant who lives in Berkeley, Calif., checks Facebook multiple times a day on his smartphone. When he feels strongly, he reaches out to the person who disagrees with him through a private Facebook message. When a friend posted what he calls a conspiracy theory about the recent crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 to his Facebook page, Mr. Manizada disagreed and reached out to his friend privately.
"I made it clear that I didn't want it to be a debate," he says.
Ethan Kross, associate professor of psychology and director of the Emotion and Self-Control Laboratory at the University of Michigan, is the author of a recent study that showed that the more people use Facebook, the more their well-being levels declined from one moment to the next.
Read the full article "How to Stop Fighting on Facebook" at the Wall Street Journal.