Aeschylus wrote “In war, truth is the first casualty”. The ability to engage in intellectual civil discourse must rank right up there.
More than 4 years ago, I wrote a posting called “4 degrees of impersonal communications” that described the different ways we engage with people and different behaviours associated with the increased levels of anonymity presented by the nature of the interaction.
In small towns, people talk differently to each other, in part because everyone knows each other. People are more civil because it isn’t possible to vanish behind a cloak of anonymity that people enjoy in bigger cities.
It was once suggested to me that people say things in emails that they would never say to someone over the phone. And, over the phone (especially in a voice message), we seem willing to speak in ways that one would never consider saying face-to-face.
I will add that people say things in anonymous comments on blogs that add a further dimension. Perhaps it is a sign of the indifference associated with mass anonymity.
On Twitter and on bulletin boards, I have had comments made about me that are beyond the ridiculous. Adherence to truth and reasoned thinking is clearly not a prerequisite for publishing on Twitter.
One of my favourite tweets in the usage based billing discussion was:
@Mark_Goldberg you should resign, apologize to the Canadian people for stifling progress, publicly denounce CRTC and then dismantle it #ubb
Not sure what I would resign from, although my son tells me that he is eagerly preparing to take over the consulting practice. And the Prime Minister may want to know that I am getting set to not only denounce the CRTC, but banish them all to a remote location where they will be forced to watch the National Geographic Wild channel, except during meals when they will need to listen to Ryerson Campus Radio. I feel the power!
As I did 4 years ago, let me commend to you a piece written by Andy Rutledge called Anti-social Media.
The social aspects of social media are often as anti–social as it gets. In our online community discussions, we say things we’d never say to another face–to–face and we behave in a manner that would likely otherwise get us punched in the face. And rightly so. We’ve grown comfortable with the idea of dispensing with our subjectivity to one another. This is a very bad idea.
Much of the social media has become a venue for us to practice our most anti–social behavior and exercise our basest motivations. And we’re rewarded for this activity by the fact that others delight in engaging us at a similar level, fueling the engine. And this activity is supposed to be the new and valuable community mechanism to lead us into the more enlightened future? I don’t think so.
Can we rise above anti-social behaviour in social media or develop better filters to shut out the noise?