SOCIAL MEDIA: THE NEW INTERPERSONAL BATTLEFIELD? THE TYPES AND LEVELS OF ONLINE INTERPERSONAL CONFLICTS

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ABSTRACT
Through technological advancement, there has emerged social media which has enabled people to connect in different ways based on different needs, such as the ways in which people engage interpersonally online in comparison to how they interact face-to-face. Social media has presented another avenue for people to express their feelings, views and opinions personally, and towards others, in positive and negative ways. The purpose of this study was to find out whether social media is a new battlefield for interpersonal conflict, and to find out the types and levels of online conflict. The objectives of the study are to establish ways in which social media is a ground for engagement in interpersonal conflict; to find out the various types of interpersonal conflicts that manifest through social media engagement; to establish the levels of interpersonal conflicts that take place through social media engagement and to find out the ideologies that (de)escalate interpersonal conflict on social media. The target population for this study was social media users, based on the number of connections they have established on Facebook and Twitter, as the most popular social media platforms. Purposive sampling was used to select the social media users who amounted to 65. The study also features 3 key informants who are professionals in the usage of the internet: social media officer, new media officer and a blogger. The research instruments included online questionnaires and key informant interviews. Data was analyzed and presented in a detailed manner on the various responses from the questionnaires and the interviews. The results of this study show that social media conflict does occur and is mainly instigated by different views of opinion, especially on political and religious fronts. The study also shows that there is need for a mechanism of regulation of what is posted online, by the various platform owners, the social media users themselves or non-governmental bodies, in order to have a means of online conflict resolution. Furthermore, the study revealed that there is the need for laws and policies to be formulated and implemented, as well as awareness creation on the possible retribution for grievous types of online conflict.

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