State of Social: Why is it easy to attack from behind the keyboard?

We were riding through downtown Anderson tonight...had to capture this image. #BlackLivesMatter

I have been completely taken back, left speechless at times, and disturbed with the use of social media to hurt people and the communities they reside. I have built a business and reputation surrounding how to build sustainable communities using social media, yet find myself at a crossroad…how to continually define and redefine best practices in a space where the rulebook is as organic as the flavor of the month.

The situation with Leslie Jones is disturbing bringing human decency and free speech as points of contention right, smack in the middle of the crosshairs of why Twitter was originally created. I go back to my graduate research which empirically demonstrated in 2000 that conflict resolution is not effective when using any form of asynchronous communication…basically humans are willing to type faster than their mouths can speak.

But more and more, I am realizing that humans leveraging asynchronous communication (like social media) can type then walk away, left with the decision to not engage in conflict resolution; mainly because we as humans cannot see the visual outcome of our under contextualized words typed in small, microblogging moments. We just type and walk away, without any recourse from our actions. I sometimes think this urge to type our reaction is a moment of temporary insanity, capitalizing on technology to release our urge to be heard without recourse.

Just the other day I captured an image of a demonstrator in downtown Anderson sharing their #BlackLivesMatter posters along with other posters claiming police killed their loved one. A friend of mine wrote a text sharing their concern with my choice of posting the image, sharing their thoughts that the image is a perceived attack on officers. I responded acknowledging the concern and encouraged us to sit down and chat about the situation. I have given that person numerous opportunities during our in-person meetings to have that conversation…still nothing. I am left to wonder if that text was one of concern, anger, disgust, or just a momentary excited utterance…why can’t we have in-person conversations?

I have watched more friends online share their concerns, feeling attacked when sharing their thoughts, emotions, and opinions. Here is a private response from a friend sharing:

“I agree we should have more open dialogue. Unfortunately, I have tried to do that and end up being yelled at or shouted down or called names that do not represent who I am.”

Why is it easy to attack from behind the keyboard? When will we realize that shouting through letters does not provide the visual cues of communicating in-person. Many claim emojis close the gap, but i still believe that face-to-face solves majority of our communication issues.

I empower our clients, our colleagues, our families, and our friends: if you are not willing to speak that Tweet or Facebook status update in a public setting…then you should reconsider what is said online. But, maybe we are changing with the velocity at which the public is choosing 140 textual characters as the main source public announcement…it is simple, easy, and once you write it…you can put the phone down and go about your day without a care in the world who you just impacted.

Twitter is at this very cross roads and the evolving user base is forcing this young company to make tough decisions that will not only dictate their future, but how the public moves closer into true synchronous communication…without the face-to-face interaction.