I’m sure if you are reading this that you use some form of social media. It’s everywhere you look. Social media is a fixture in our lives in the United States. The internet and social media are so embedded in our daily life that it dominates our language. It’s also starting to influence the way we interact with one another. Social media sites are supposed to bring people together but sadly it seems to be ripping us apart. My goal is to shed light on the issues surrounding interaction via social media and a few simple techniques to mitigate toxic behavior on the internet.
The political climate of the United States is quite turbulent to say the very least. Everyone has a platform to express their views on the internet without a filter. Our echo chambers are becoming cauldrons of toxicity and it’s changing the way humans interact with one another. It seems as though we are not capable of engaging in debates of any sort without it dissolving into insults, personal attacks and even violence.
How bad is it, really? Well, according to Chamath Palihapitya, former vice-president of user growth at Facebook, claims that social media sites like Facebook are creating “tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works”. What a terrifying thought. We are supposed to be more connected than ever but we seem to be disconnecting ourselves from one another.
So what do we do? An article written by John Coate, dating all the way back to 1998 covers many steps to maintain an online community. In his article he discusses free speech. I think many of us in the United States take that right for granted. Our online communities are derailing into silence brigades. Individuals with opposing view points are expected to hate one another. These tools of social media are creating online communities that have no chance to incubate thought provoking dialog between two parties. Coate goes on to explain in the same section covering free speech that public online interactions should be moderated to ensure that the online community is preserved. However, Facebook has no official moderator. There are guidelines Facebook follows to delete or censor content but it is not a transparent process nor does it ensure a healthy interaction between two parties online. I think the solution to this divisive pattern of social media is to use Facebook less and use other moderated forums such as Reddit.com or Sputnik.org. It would be foolish to say drama and divisive actions do not occur on other social media sites. However, taking into consideration what Chamath Palihapitya has disclosed about what Facebook is doing to our society, we do not have any other choice but to change our actions to ensure we progress as a society.