Social media? We haven’t yet understood it

We’ve heralded social media as the new era that shall empower each voice, but those voices aren’t exactly spewing new ideas and promise of change. It’s actually bringing out the worst in people

I do think that we need to educate more on social media, in schools and outside. I’m not refering to how to post stuff or how to upload videos. But the deeper questions – the issues of privacy, balance of opinion, reasoned argument and bullying
I do think that we need to educate more on social media, in schools and outside. I’m not refering to how to post stuff or how to upload videos. But the deeper questions – the issues of privacy, balance of opinion, reasoned argument and bullying

In another life I worked as an editor of a newspaper. Being an editor is an interesting job. You have the power to decide what gets printed and what stays in the dark. You’re the not the top boss, a board usually sits above you, but the daily operations and content of the newspaper are in your hands.

I think newspaper editors need to be rough around the edges, almost contrarians. They need to be a bit cynical by nature, as otherwise you’ll fall into holes you hadn’t seen coming. Being inquisitive is also an important skill. When a journalist submits an article it is your job to go through it. Do you have more than one source for this? Can you cross-reference what was alleged? What is the person’s incentive to do this?

A journalist is as good as his or her sources while an editor must double-check things so they don’t blow up in his or her face.

The process worked. For decades newspapers, editors and journalists made the cut, or fell through, depending on how good and reliable they were. The truth was holy. In newspaper circles if you went on a whim, took chances and were caught out you’d be in trouble. And your reputation in tatters. A bit of a joke. But a good story that gets printed and makes waves? There’s nothing like that feeling. I do believe that journalists, when they do their job right, can affect policy as much as politicians.

Today, with social media, the checks and balances are gone. With the advent of Facebook, everyone can be the journalist, the editor, the board and the printer. This can also be done anonymously, through the beauty of fake profiles. Honestly, some of the things you see on Facebook are simply ridiculous. We’ve heralded social media as the new era that shall empower each voice, but those voices aren’t exactly spewing new ideas and promise of change. It’s actually bringing out the worst in people.

I see this on social media on my timeline, but you can see it everywhere. The comments have become so predictable. Put up an article about anything remotely controversial and you get the parade with it - you can see them there typing on and on with no context and no sense.

Someone appears in court accused of something and we’re already with the pitchforks and ready to hang. Immigration? There’s a whole department just for those commentators. Earlier this week, football players in England were targeted by racial comments after poor performances. Experts in social media reported that some comments were created by fake profiles and the use of automated bots. I mean, why go through all this hassle just to be vindictive?

I don’t want to sound pessimistic. In between one nasty comment and another, you see the light of reason and rationality trying to shine through from the mud. Young people have certainly a better understanding of the platforms.

They’ve grown with it. They’ve seen and witnessed the negative effects that social media can bring, especially if its related to a bullying experience.

I do think that we need to educate more on social media, in schools and outside. I’m not refering to how to post stuff or how to upload videos. But the deeper questions – the issues of privacy, balance of opinion, reasoned argument and bullying.

We’ve opened a can of something not knowing what it is. We thought there were flowers but ended up with worms. Now, it’s time for reason and sense to prevail in a place where disorder usually triumphs.

I’m not saying we’re going to be successful, but we ought to aspire to be better.

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