Mediation – Facebook Style!

By Laura Melton Tucker, March 31st, 2012

Listen to this entry.

If you’re reading this blog, there’s a good chance you’re one of the 800 million Facebook users who log on to check out what your friends are up to.  Perhaps you’ve also once discovered – horrors! – a TERRIBLE picture of yourself posted for the world (“or at least friends of friends,”) to see.  What to do?  You can look for a little “X” to delete the photo, but you won’t find one. Instead you click a button that says, “report this photo.”  A dialogue box pops up asking you to identify the problem – nudity, spam, pornography, hate crime, personal attack…well, you’re already in this deep…check them all.  And so it goes, your headache now becomes one over at facebook where a worker huddles before a computer screen straining to see how this photo of you looking…well, not your very best….is a violation of policy.

This exact scenario, and the problems it creates for the staff as well as the entire Facebook community, was the topic of a featured talk at the Wisdom 2.0 Conference held in Silicon Valley last week. The conference brings together people from the fields of technology and spiritualty to discuss how to bring wisdom, compassion and awareness to social networks as well as the workplace. The speaker, Arturo Behar, is an engineering manager at Facebook with the job of  “supporting the people who support the people who “report” photographs that violate Facebook policy.”  Once customers report problems with photos, someone on Behar’s staff must review the photo and make a decision about pulling it down.   As described above, in too many situations, the reported violations and the photographs don’t match up. Instead, Behar’s staff reviews photos that have offended but not violated policy.  Even though few violations occur, lots of people are upset. As Behar points out, conflict exists in every community, even virtual ones.  Facebook doesn’t need a complaint squad as much as it needs mediators.  Rather than send an email saying no violation occurred, Behar describes choosing a strategy to promote understanding and compassion, while providing empowerment and learning to the Facebook user community.  His exemplary strategy teaches users to mediate their own conflicts.

To do this, Behar developed a sample text for the customer to send to the person who posted the picture. The text models for the sender how to explain why he or she is upset. It uses language like:  “I felt ________ when I saw the photo.”  In essence, Facebook is modeling emotional literacy, while encouraging unhappy users to initiate a dialogue and mediate their own conflict. To management’s delight, this new strategy has worked.  When people asked that photos be removed in a manner that helped the posters of the photos to understand how the person making the request was feeling,  75% of the problem photos were removed.  Behar explained that most people don’t intend to hurt other’s feelings. When we understand what’s going on for the other person, our “compassion circuit” in the brain (yup, we have one!) kicks in.  We enjoy making other people feel better.

The takeaway is that when people reach out and ask for help, explain their situations and talk about their emotions, they bring about change.   Behar says that even when the requests aren’t honored, people feel empowered by their ability to ask for what they want while learning about themselves and others in the process.

Comments are closed.

© Peacewise Mediation, Iowa City. All rights reserved. Design by Christina Willner