Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about conflict avoidance, I’d like to talk about the far-reaching consequences of avoidance and ghosting, which have become the standard for so many people.
It makes simple sense that social media has caused avoidance to become almost reflexive. But it’s so important that in our face to face interactions, we learn how to navigate conflict and manage each other’s intense emotions instead of avoiding, blaming, stigmatizing honesty, and ghosting each other.
Negative side consequences of accepting avoidance and ghosting as the predominant, so-called “healthy” method of real-world interaction include:
- Avoidance of conflict in real life privileges those who can maintain power by quietly enforcing the status quo.
- Conflict avoidance keeps us from being exposed to other emotional experiences and viewpoints that might contradict our ideas, broaden our worldviews, and motivate us to develop in unexpected ways.
- Avoiding uncomfortable or awkward interactions and backing away from all conflict gives us the false impression that honest, intimate connections are usually an inconvenience or a liability.
- Painting people who avoid all conflict and/or ghost their friends in real life as tough, mature or powerful makes us view vulnerability, authenticity, and deep connections as the fraught territory of weak or unstable people.
- Our relationships become shallower and more transactional as a result of our insistence on supposedly healthy, conflict-free interactions, which results in dissatisfaction and addictive behaviors.
- Avoidance of conflict makes us more rigid in our beliefs, less honest and trusting, and more isolated from each other.
- The more isolated we become, the more we turn to ideologies and identities in order to make us feel that deep sense of connection that we, as humans, crave.
- The more intimate and intense those ideologies and identities are, the more easily they replace real intimacy. The political consequences of this are obvious!
Therefore, there are significant risks involved in treating avoidance or ghosting as commonplace in relationships. We prevent ourselves from making genuine connections and isolate ourselves around beliefs and identities rather than a sense of kinship to others by framing conflict or “negative” feelings as a byproduct of unhealthy relationships.
Building intimate relationships takes time and patience. Every human being alive is deeply flawed and different from us in countless — sometimes bewildering — ways. And because people are more connected than ever yet more emotionally isolated than ever (thanks in part to social media), there are always intense bumps in the road to becoming close and learning to trust someone enough to support them and tell them the truth.
Honest, intimate relationships aren’t easy. That’s part of the reason we learn so much from them, and grow so much from returning to them at times when our most fearful, defensive selves would prefer to isolate in a dark cave where we’re always right instead. The more you care about someone, the stronger your fear and urge to stigmatize them or close yourself off from them can be. Keeping your heart open takes hard work, particularly when so many messages from the outside world treat independence, indifference, and dogmatic allegiance as the triumphant realm of life’s true winners. Learning from conflict sometimes requires vulnerably letting go of some of your most rigid beliefs in order to allow someone else’s emotional experience to guide you to a new understanding of the world.
It’s arguable that social media makes “all of us” uneasy and avoidant, restless and unsatisfied, obsessed and dependent. As a result, we are less accepting of typical human needs and actions and more concentrated on finding ways to “cleanse” ourselves of flaws and rid our lives of conflict.
It is crucial to observe these societal developments and pay close attention to how they affect us at home, at school, at work, and in politics. Reminding one another that everyone is flawed and that conflict is normal and even beneficial is also important. Building strong, healthy friendships, professional alliances, and romantic relationships requires fostering curiosity, appreciating difference, and embracing others’ and our own imperfections.
We can’t let our interactions on social media warp our understanding of each other in real life. We have to slow down, ground ourselves in the moment, and invest a different kind of focus and energy in the people around us in order to build strong, trusting relationships with them.
Try to remind yourself often that what you see on social media is a distortion. Remember that behind our scoldy exteriors, we’re *all* fumbling along looking for more love and connection – often without recognizing it consciously. We’re *all* trying to feel less powerless, more seen, more heard, and more connected in a world that pretends to give us these things, but delivers them in superficial ways that leave us even more jittery, lonely, and unmoored.
It makes complete sense to avoid social media interaction. However, don’t let that cause you to avoid conflict and strong feelings in real life. Every awkward or flimsy connection we have with another flawed person teaches us something new. Keep in mind that people with solid, healthy boundaries don’t run away from trouble at the first hint of it. They stand their position with an open mind and heart, allowing curiosity to guide them ahead.
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