It sometimes feels like we rapidly toggle between two extremes in how we view social media. Depending on the day, it seems to either be that: social media will usher in a new age of cross-cultural understanding and explosion of creativity OR social media has devolved into a cesspool of kneejerk reactions, trite zingers, and ugly mudslinging. It is easy to think that the trolls have overtaken the castle. As we know, social media is all of the above--a mixture of the wonderful, the inane, and the hurtful. The problem, however, is that we have a tendency to view the future of social media through either a Utopian lens of Dystopian lens--as opposed to one that captures both the immense beauty and potential, but also the pitfalls and problems that no doubt exist. In other words, social media is only as good as we are.
That’s why my DigiWish is to humanize social media. To humanize is to make kinder, gentler, and with greater human characteristics. In a day and age where much of lives are without traditional face-to-face communication, it is important to remember that social media is filled with people, not persons. There is a potential detachment that can take place without the normal intimacy of eye contact and verbal cues. It is crucial to realize that behind every avatar is generally a human being that laughs, cries, gets angry, is irrational, and, above all, hungers for connection. Despite our digitalization, a prick on the finger would yield a drop of blood instead of a steady stream of ones and zeros. Moving forward, it is time to humanize social media through a process that educates users through digital citizenship, ensures that social media companies continually improve environmental conditions, and, perhaps most importantly, empowers users to create an improved online culture. The future hasn’t happened yet; it is created by the decisions we make today.
So, is it... “In the battle for the Internet, the power of humanity to overcome hate gives me hope. I’m rooting for the humans over the trolls. I know we can win,” Ellen Pao.
“The trolls are winning the battle for the Internet,” Washington Post.
Lets make sure the humans win!
David Ryan Polgar is the co-founder of the Digital Citizenship Summit, Chief Safety Officer for Friendbase, and Digital Family Expert for ASKfm.
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