SOCIAL MEDIA BREEDS HATE
How many of us believe that social media breeds hate or have at least given this serious consideration? We’ve all seen exchanges between individuals on Twitter or Facebook that have quickly escalated into name-calling or even threats. Even a seemingly banal post can take a nasty turn.
Most would consider that living in a small gulf island community on Canada’s tranquil Pacific west coast would be pretty idyllic….and it is!!! Yet there is a dark cyber world underbelly which is exposed when you visit the four community sites online. Why four? Well, at various times, someone has been cast away out due to a difference in opinion and s/he has then started a new discussion group. Topics such as whether or not roosters should be allowed in our rural environment can become quite heated. There are continued arguments between north-enders and south-enders and heated arguments over a bridge or no bridge which, prior to the internet, were debated through written Letters to the Editor in the local community “rag”.
Although some express their opinions online through the anonymity of pseudo-names, it is still sometimes possible to attribute harsh comments expressed online to an islander. Surprisingly, it can be the friendly chap who always waves “hello” at the Village Market or the lovely woman who serves customers at the Coop and then it starts to colour the view of your own community. Amid the online hostility though, there are the humorous small-town chatter such as a report of a donkey running loose on South Road or the important community alerts that a cougar has been spotted chasing a deer or an update from the Fire Chief of a bushfire nearby. While some of the exchanges can be pleasant, others can truly be concerning when it exposes intolerance, unwarranted hostility and even hatred to those expressing an alternate view.
More recently, I saw a post on Facebook about a social experiment aimed at addressing social media hate. Interestingly, I might not have seen it otherwise if not for a friend’s sharing of the link….not being a fan of Dr. Phil or never hearing about his segment “Tuesdays with Troy”. The experiment – Killing Hate — put together a diversified group of millennials (being the largest age group on social media), each one having spurred aggressive online conversations or been affected by online hate speech. The group members would soon realize through the experiment that they did not share core beliefs or values. Questions are asked about their positions on typically touchy issues such as pro-choice versus pro-life, pro versus anti-immigration, affirmative action or not, etc. After each describing themselves in their own way (as progressive, conservative, democrat, liberal, queer, etc.) and indicating their positions on a variety of issues, they were encouraged to talk about their views, their whys and their differences. Interestingly, engagement built bridges and perhaps understanding rather than the hostility and vitriol that is so prevalent in online “discourse”. The group was then challenged to provide some guidance around the use of social media and how to lower the level of hate. The millennials set out the following five principles to consider before engaging in an online debate.
- Listen before responding
- If you wouldn’t say it in person don’t say it online
- No insults
- Meet anger with kindness
- Find the common ground and good in others.
The facilitator of the experiment, Troy Dunn, also added “consider that the possibility that you may be wrong”.
On reflection, these principles are not much different from other advice or “rules” to guide good conduct. One that comes to mind is the Rotary Club’s Four-Way Test, specifically (1) Is it true, (2) Is it fair, (3) Will it build goodwill, and (4) Will it be beneficial? Not unlike the motherly advice, “If you can’t say something positive, don’t say anything at all” but that would hardly facilitate good debate. However, the difference is that these principles were developed by millennials, the greatest users of social media and by those who themselves have incited or faced online hatred directly. They have lived with social media for the greatest proportion of their lives. Clearly we have something to learn from them…..and we ought to listen.
Do you engage in online debates? Will these 5 principles developed by millennials change how you approach your online exchanges? Click here for more
Here are 5 principles that millennials developed when engaging in online debates. Can they teach us something? Click here for more
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