Firstly, I’d like to thank the SL community for upgrading it’s drama from chickens to hair. You have no idea how happy that makes me.
As the TruthHawksRocksMadisonGarden’sJellyBeans thing descends into more comments than I care to read, I can’t help but think of the old He said, She said, They said scenario. It’s been around since the dawn of time, and we all know it oh so well.
It’s starts when someone says/does something which then offends someone else. So they get growly and then spout off about it, and suddenly a lot more people come along and offer their own opinion. Before you know it, you got yourself a full scale drama on your hands, which, in this crazy-mixed-up-grid of ours, will encompass as least three platforms of social media.
Usually, we need a love interest which keeps the story going. Add in a near-death scene and some special effects and you have next summer’s blockbuster release. But usually all you need are just some normal people going about their way and crossing paths.
Because it’s human nature for us to have disagreements, and to see the same thing very differently. What makes Second Life worse for this sort of thing is the “They said.” element – people as a entity, given a small scale situation, will be like fuel to the fire. Add in an audience, and suddenly you’ll have a few dozen people with more popcorn than you can shake a stick at.
To be clear, I don’t actually care much for the whole hair “confession” thing – my interest lies in how this third party gets involved and what role they play.
In many cases, the third party seems to act as an escalator of the situation. They can be residents in world, on Plurk or on blogs. And they’re territorial. They stick to the home territory of the side which they back. It’s like watching a really bad nature program being played out on a colourful timeline.
The third party will be anyone looking in and offering an opinion – a friend, a relative, a customer, a reader or someone completely neutral. However, with the way the Second Life community seems to work, it’s a very small grid and everyone seems to know each other in these circles. So the third party also tend to be insiders – they’re in the know about some, if not most or all of the details. This gives them the impression that they’re informed enough to offer their own opinion.
Take a mobilised community like the Second Life fashion/social media world – I estimate say about 1,000 avatars are in this circle. People tend to behave in a systematic way – you do what you do, keep your nose clean and conform to avoid getting outed by a vulture blogger. Yet, the same community is motivated by a meaty news story – people love to see others getting down and dirty, as long as they can watch from a safe distance.
Everyone watching is a third party, and everyone offering an opinion is a third party. Simply by giving attention, it will escalate.
The police force have a simple three word method to de-escalate such situations: Prevention, Resolution and Containment.
Prevention is pretty simple – spot a problem before it occurs and deal with it in-house. It takes someone with patience and the ability to provide, teach and build bridges whilst maybe swallowing some ego to be able to stop a situation from occurring before it turns into a “thing”.
Resolution is required once a conflict of interests has been established, and the lines of communication have become public. Disputes and feelings of unequal power can lead to rash words being exchanged, and before you know it, everyones crowding around and there’s a guy with a dodgy accent selling beer nuts for a dollar.
Resolution requires a mediator to step in and sit the two main parties down, and reach an agreement that both sides can accept. This is almost never be done in public where everyone is watching – it simply doesn’t work, because of the “They said” factor. Keep it simple and closed doors, and if a resolution is reached, the whole thing just goes away and people move on.
Containment is stopping the situation from engulfing even more people into it – just the initial parties is more than enough to cope with in any disagreement. Start adding new people into the equation, and you have a much tougher time trying to arbitrate a dispute. At this point, you want to bring in the peacekeeper – that’s the guy who simply doesn’t care what everyone’s problem is, but tells everyone to chill the feck out, or else he’s going to get cranky.
Getting people who shouldn’t be at the table to go away again is the harder part here – the third party in these cases get too close to the situation, and simply aggravate it. To reach resolution, things have to be kept simple and manageable.
The Second Life resident pysche has always been that Fighting is Inevitable – it’s always going to happen, and it’s just a case of who’ll be next, and how much popcorn we have left.
Changing that pysche to one that makes us understand that Fighting is Preventable will go a long way to a more harmonious bunch of people
There’s an old Irish saying:
“Is this a private fight, or can anyone get in?”
Public disputes are preventable if you want to be able to resolve them. Recognise what stage the situation is at, and take steps to diffuse it before it gets out of control – that way, the involved parties suffer less stress, and the popcorn manufacturers will finally go out of business.