Our Social Media Manager, Sarah A. Parker, likes to opine on all things social media from time to time, so we’ve given her space to do just that here on our blog. She’ll cover everything from the new and unusual to the outdated and annoying. Got something she missed our something you’d like her to cover? Find her on Twitter @SparkerWorks.
Twitter recently announced an initiative to help “increase the collective health, openness, and civility of public conversation around the world, and to hold ourselves publicly accountable toward progress”. This is a collaborative project, inviting experts around the world to apply to be a part of it.
It’s no secret that Twitter- and other social media platforms- have issues with harassment, abuse, and the reporting process around those issues. It’s also easy for users to build up echo chambers of their own opinions and world-views across social, reinforcing rather than challenging personally held beliefs and ideas. Perhaps that’s what makes it so easy for some to justify lashing out at “the enemy” with such ugly force.
Humanity hasn’t suddenly become meaner. Human nature doesn’t change. But our access to communication technology has changed and the speed with which we can communicate is faster than it ever has been in our short history— and we don’t always think through the ramifications of that.
These platforms should be taking these steps; after all, with great power (in this case, to connect people and disseminate information) comes great responsibility.
Projects like this collaboration and study are going to take time. It will take more time for any findings to be turned into design elements that are incorporated into these platforms.
So in the meantime, what can we do? The hard work we often don’t want to. We’re tired. Information arrives in front of us at a constant, overwhelming pace.
So even when we’re tired, we have to ask ourselves if we’re approaching current issues with enough nuance. Do we only follow people who agree with us? That doesn’t mean we have to follow the loudest voices that disagree with us, but seek out the more thoughtful ones.
It is easier when answers are presented to us, tied up in neat little packages. But we still need to ask: Who created the package? Where did they get the materials? What do they gain, if anything, by sharing it with us?
We can all take a healthier approach to Twitter and to communication in our lives in general. That’s going to mean everything from supporting projects like this one Twitter is launching, to engaging critical thinking skills around information we’re presented with even when we agree with it (let alone disagree), to sometimes just unplugging and walking away for a while.
This isn’t going to solve everything, but it’s at least a start.