If you haven’t already done so, you can examine my angle on the democracy of social media here. I feel this is a great starting point for understanding the foundation for which I value social media, online content and the ways in which people and groups interact with what is published online. Through interpreting these views, one can perhaps understand my vision of an online community, which as suggested by Ryan Holmes, founder of Hootsuite, is a viable vehicle for democracy and how we should be ‘tapping social media for good.’ You can read Holmes’ article on Venture Beat here.
With the positivity of online usership said, there is of course a cloud of shaming, bullying, trolling and demoralization. Mark Shrayber (2016) discusses hate crime here in the context of Leslie Jones’ (Ghostbusters, Saturday Night Live) experience with having her personal site maliciously hacked. Do community guidelines mitigate these actions? Certainly not. People break rules, ignore laws and evade ethics on a daily basis online and in-person, so in developing expectations, can we actually expect to prevent wrongdoing? As Konnikova (2013) suggests in the New Yorker, the anonymity of commenting online provides a safe, but confident place for threatening civility. However, she also notes that people tend to devalue anonymous comments, which researchers at the University of Wisconsin (2013) reiterate here.
So, arguments litter every angle of each side of the fence; do you make guidelines, will they be adhered to, do you screen comments and are you hypocritical if in fact you limit engagement on your site when you’re preaching the asylum-esque quality of the Internet? In looking at the course resources, as well as exploring the Internet for guidelines that support a positive and inclusive community online, I have found the most suitable and relatable for me to reflect those of Book Riot, which you can see here. I appreciate these guidelines because they are clear, concise and current. They are inclusive, well-articulated and are relatively easy to understand and follow. They are fair.
However, when do we, as a democratic society, say why do we need a list of guidelines? The Golden Rule is dated, which you can read about here in Peter Economy’s proposal for the ‘Platinum Rule,’ but are we over-complicating the desire to just be good people? I’m not saying it’s right, but if rules are meant to be broken, are we better off not listing them but instead having the trust and confidence in humanity that we can be good, and that when we’re not, we lose the privilege to take advantage of that which democracy provides? What if websites emblemized the notion of acting in a manner that expects people to“ be kind.” That’s it; be kind. Appreciate the content and accept different views, but contribute, as opposed to degrade, and as such, you will adhere to kindness. If someone hates, I feel they will do exactly that, so in establishing guidelines, am I inviting the trolls? When one walks into a coffee shop, is there a sign indicating how to behave? There are no guidelines, but a social contract that suggests kindness.
So, do I need to be explicit in generating and sharing guidelines for this blog, or can I assume goodness? Or, do I expect the unexpected and create some guidelines that protect liability and govern what occurs? For now, I’m going to gamble on humanity and hope for kindness, until of course a literal laying down of the law is warranted…