In my last post on here, I talked about why hate isn’t born with us – instead, it’s fostered by actions and words, often by our parents and those who have an impact on us.
While that post spoke specifically about whether we hate someone (or something) because of a genuine malice or because we’re simply told we do, it’s part of a bigger train of thought that I’ve been having for a while now.
Yes, this year’s US election has brought these thoughts more to the fore, but regardless of the shitshow the election was, and the rhetoric around it, a certain train of thought has been percolating in my head for a while:
Do you ever want to just switch off the digital lights?
More Than Just a Break – A Breakdown in Communications
Back in April this year, I decided to take a break from Twitter. Seven months later, and I’m yet to return, at least on my personal account.
— Danny Brown (@DannyBrown) April 28, 2016
I’m active using a couple of other Twitter accounts for business reasons, but apart from that, I would have no use to be active on that particular network.
It just got too noisy, too spammy, too non-conversational, and lost a lot of the magic that it had a few years back.
That, and the fact it seems to be struggling with identity compared to the other networks.
Does it have value for others? Of course, and I know a few people who get great value from it, both personally and professionally.
But perhaps it’s not just Twitter that I’m falling out with, but social media in general.
I joked with a friend recently that 2016 will be remembered as the year that social media “died”, given how it now seems a medium for hate and negativity than openness and conversation.
Just taking a look at my Facebook feed at the minute, and it makes for depressing reading. Not necessarily the lead stories, but the commentary around them.
Whereas there used to be civil debate and genuine interest in hearing the point of view of others, now it’s a “this is my wall and I’ll say what I want and delete what I want” mindset.
Apart from the irony of a Facebook user thinking anything is “theirs” on the platform, it’s sad to see us relegate ourselves to single soundbite armies.
Instead of fostering conversation and debate, we’re barricading ourselves into a closed bubble of cynicism.
That benefits no one and makes the social network experience a poor one.
Getting Back to Real Conversation
As I look at how the social media landscape has changed over the last 8-10 years, the attraction of starting over from scratch becomes more appealing.
In particular, I like the approach that designer and writer Paul Jarvis takes with his digital content.
If you visit Paul’s site, you’ll see that he takes an email-first approach to publishing content.
While he has an archives section, these articles are only made public weeks after the originals have gone out to Paul’s newsletter subscribers.
More often than not, the emails Paul’s subscribers receive are conversational, relaxed, and based around a singular topic.
This encourages open replies from his subscribers, without fear of being castigated on a public social network for having a different point of view than the populist one.
It’s a breath of fresh air and is something that’s really attractive to me as I become less enamoured with online conversations today.
We Can Talk or We Can Shout
I have two young kids. My son Ewan is six, and my daughter Salem is four (five in February).
Much like any kids that age, they often push the boundaries to see how far they can go before mummy or daddy says no.
Sometimes, they’ll continue to push the boundaries, and then you – as the parent – are faced with the choice of how to deal with that test.
Do you raise your voice and shout to try and get your message across, or do you try and reason in a calm voice and explain why you’re disagreeing with their “pushing”?
The goal is the latter, but sometimes the former needs to come into play.
However, it’s generally the latter that yields more results because that leads to an actual conversation on why your child might want to take a different approach.
Not too dissimilar from online interactions, if you think about it.
Except there seems to be more of the shouting and less of the conversation, from both sides of the argumentative coin.
When that becomes the apparent norm, and silence is truly golden, switching off the digital lights is a hell of an enticing premise…