Tron and the art of social media civility

The theory as to why time flies when you´re having fun has been put under so many loops and microscopes I won’t add my two pennies worth about that here, suffice to say I’m fine with the theory, in theory. That said I am once again amazed that it’s already a month since my last post and no I didn’t spend my time partying or dancing round some Germanic Maypole.
Put like that you’d be excused for thinking this is going to be another blog from some guy complaining about lost time and so on but let me reassure everyone that for taken part in numerous “Be a better human being and you’ll be a better manager” training sessions this of course isn’t true and I’ll just back track a bit and start again)

…Beginning May a slight shift in functions at work meant that I had time to do something other than pure project crunching which while it does assure the daily bread does nothing in itself as far as the long-term business objectives are concerned. Putting it succinctly, and politically correctly, time had been freed up for me to spend on prospecting new ventures and so a sizeable portion of the month was spent trawling internet and social media, ostensibly for professional purposes and in doing so, hopefully, raising awareness for particular my enterprise.

While trawling internet and various other media it occurred to me that once you set out on such missions you start noticing others doing exactly the same as you, rather like after changing a car you tend to only see people driving the same type of car as you, well at least that’s what happens to me. More to the point you start paying attention to the way they go about it and the first thing I noted was the one thing almost all of these prospectors, “Marketeers” and data miners seem to possess: “Stiff-neckedness”, which honestly I have to admire. This so-called “Stiff-neckedness”, this tenacity, is the stuff entrepreneurs are made of (you fix your objective and stick to it come what may) and experiencing it made me feel a bit like Beau Bridges in “Tron” (the 1982 version). I found myself submerged in some subcultural environment, surrounded by super-hyped impulses, as if pre-programmed to reach destinations in the shortest period of time. They sped past me like some electronic motorbikes from “Tron” on their way to their objectives. Occasionally paths would cross and some of their impetus and orientation would rub off on me…


Ok, I think you get my point. Anyway being a keen  communicator… and a disciple of “it’s not just what you say but how you say it” I read a fair number of articles from professional and talented writers complaining about the quality of some of the communications to be read on Social Media and well the analogy that comes to mind here is “Poke the woodwork to see what comes out of it”. These weren’t just leisure bloggers, a certain number where authors, editorialists and contractual bloggers and they were sore. The source of their irritation was the quality of comments they were reading in response to their articles. Sure commenting or reacting to an article, especially if it expresses a justifiable opinion and the comments are mediated, is normal and usually a healthy exchange of points of views but recently a trend in commenting has been crystallizing: The tendency to wantonly criticize the writer rather than the work.

Pandora’s box and more

This raises a valid point. If you don’t like a person or their opinions and you feel you have to react you should,  its called freedom of speech… but does the means always justify the end? The debate about Trolls and trolling isn’t new and I’m the first to agree that a certain degree of trolling is necessary otherwise Social Media would be more of a colourless quagmire than it is*. It’s a Pandora’s Box situation and we all know you can’t half open it, either you open it or don’t and once it’s opened, be prepared for the consequences. Today we have this Pandora’s Box situation. On one side you have people with Smartphones and on the other side you have the people inventing these rather ingenious ways to exploit Smartphone owners. Unfortunately buying a phone, downloading some app and accessing your Social Network from anywhere isn’t synonymous with instantaneous social status or even good social behaviour, let alone improving one’s Intelligence Quotient. Most people take the phone out of the box, switch it on, download the latest app and immerse themselves in a virtual reality, enhanced or otherwise and the great thing about it is that there are even apps that warn you before you bump into an obstacle! Yes everything in your way is an obstacle to be avoided even if it happens to be the person you’re texting!

(*Just imagine if all those supposedly personal but blaring phone conversations we’re all obliged to overhear (and tolerate) on public transport systems were converted into Facebook wall posts! They are? And did they alter privacy settings as Facebook advises? They didn’t? and they’re getting trolled? Hum! The insidious thing about trolling is that 99% of the time its anonymous and the 1% who get trolled and do react invariably enjoy their 15 minutes of fame as a result and perhaps rightly so… and how often do you go over to someone on a bus and complain about their blaring phone conversations or do you just turn the music up your listening to on your Smartphone?)

BTW. A good friend of mine recently took part in a charity marathon for the “Doctors without Borders” organization in Luxembourg. Now that was something worth talking about on Facebook and elsewhere!


So when was the last time you wrote something longer than 144 characters?

But I’m side tracking and to get back to my original point about abusive comments. It’s ever and again a question of psychology when commenting an article, a quality some people simply do not appear to possess. You have to draw a line between sharp, even abrasive witted commenting and blunt stupid trolling and no it’s not something you’ll read about in the phone’s Users Guide.

Senseless commenting is just the tip of the iceberg. I read an article recently about how “Sympathisers” of a certain sovereign state use commenting on Social Media to defend or advance a specific country’s standpoint, be it about a given regional conflict or a campaign against a particular orientation (I’ll let the Metadata do the talking). If it were a brand of soda or Smartphone everyone would call it “Brand advocating” and say it’s acceptable, but it’s not. It’s “Propaganda” in its most basic (basest) form. Come on guys! Do a spell check before clicking “Tweet! And jeez! It may be a justifiable cause but be more subtle about it.

But back to “Brand advocating”. Nobody’s duped. This has been happening since the start of internet and since forums and other media channels have been around and again it’s a case of not what you say but how you say it that counts. For example. Everybody loves Richard Branson, ok, admires him. I do mainly because he produced Tubular Bells. Seriously though he’s done a great job being an acceptable face of Capitalism, something that Bill Gates, for all the billions he pours into honourable causes, will never be able to do and I guess that’s what’s called the David & Goliath syndrome, but I’m deviating.

Exploiting a phenomenon

It’s got to the point where certain Media found that exploiting comments could be good for business. I read that enterprises such as the “Huffington Post” were particularly good at tapping into this potential market value and had set up filters to manage comments, i.e. select or block a comment depending on the subject’s media potential and why not tame the fury. What better way to silence anonymous abusive Trolls than to put their very toxicity, their “Raison d’être” to commercial ends, the profits of which will not be theirs.


About nickrichards38
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