Aah... social networking. Business and pleasure combined. Great for instant communication, making connections, getting your voice heard. The to-and-fro of debate and the general banter. But watch out! Comment threads on social networks can be dangerous places.
Welcome to the minefieldI'm sure there are endless academic papers on the phenomenon of trolling and 'comment rage.' About how the cowardly cloak of online anonymity brings out our basest instincts. Friendships can be damaged and business ties terminated, all because opinions are misinterpreted and people have lost the ability to feel empathy online. I've previously enjoyed commenting where I have something to add. Maybe to counter an argument or widen a debate, give some context, or spur on discussion. But there is something mysteriously rotten in the format of comment threads and I think I'll give it a rest for a while. Have you noticed how digital forums speed opinions to extremes within milliseconds? It's easy to take offence at a lazy comment. I count myself in this number. It's why I am writing about it. I noticed:
- Comments mangle meaning and asphyxiate intent.
- Sensible comments are 'rebuffed' with outrage and anger, but no logic or sense.
- Even the most casual observation can be misinterpreted and blown up out of proportion.
- People feel they must 'win' arguments when there is no single winning position.
Oh no! Here come the expertsThe problem is that people have drums to bang — and they will bang them, no matter what. Remember when social media was about dialogue? Forget it, the monologue is back. Many have lost the ability to see the wider picture, to accept difference, to trust in others' judgement. Recently I made a fairly innocuous observation on one business thread. I believe what I said would be self-evidently true to any reasonable observer. It was met by a retort that didn't deign to counter my point. It simply recited a well-worn, predictable mantra. This was not debate but an attempt at childish point-scoring. I sat and pondered on my response. I even drafted a reply, before thinking better of it. I have concluded:
- There is no universal truth in this life yet many claim their position answers every situation.
- There is no 'win' to be had on social media comment threads.
- Social media destroys the ability to empathise and have perspective.