Why it Matters In your online conversations, now more than ever, you should consider the consequences of your actions. A number of online trend
Why it Matters
In your online conversations, now more than ever, you should consider the consequences of your actions.
A number of online trending conversations recently held a vice-like grip on my attention, almost like a mental flue, and for some initially unclear reason, they simply wouldn’t let go. And when they eventually did, they left me with some unsettled feelings – Infact I needed to sneeze the thoughts out.
Before we dive deep, and I will not even discuss the gross and traumatising graphic photos naively shared every so often, and yet, lets look at some conversations that provoked this mental sneeze;
The Chandarana Supermarket saga, when a “leaked” internal marketing proposal written in “poor english,” – actually a direct translation from hindi mother tongue to English – by an enthusiasitic junior 1st job employee…. And the stir it caused, which saw the denizens of the internet go after the retail chain with [seeming] glee over an alleged racial slur …….
Besides, the recent IPSOS Kenya Survey, even though public opinion polls, once a seemingly infallible cornerstone, and an important element of democracy, meant to “give the public an independent voice that’s not generally present” in politics and political news coverage. Recent errors, are a worrisome trend because one of the main claims of polling; that of representing the people’s views is being questioned. Notably, polls have racked up a few big-time failures in recent years. Of which, I’m convinced you haven’t forgotten the wonders of the …..Brexit polls ….the Trump election polls … when the boorish reality-TV billionaire with zero political experience and no apparent verbal filter shot past a dozen experienced politicians in the 2015 American presidential election in complete defiance of opinion polls and the political gravity train …….and the list continues….. Polls have become less trustworthy, and in a way may have just become one tool meerly used to influence elections and serve political intrigues – remember cambridge analystica .….. the motives, their agenda and their masters are still very much alive.
These ……and ….many many ….other stories that keep ringing in my head like a ear worm – have replayed for days in my head.
While some of these stories kept trending for days, and others for weeks driven by online mobs and fueled by the cunning reward of ….the “thumbs-up”, “stars” and “hearts” that constitute the currency of social media validation. The incentivized mobs dutifully meted out all manner of spicy, and not so spicy comments. It wasn’t long before it dawned on me, why these conversations had maintained such an achy grip on me.
An achy grip, which soon transformed into an “Itch to learn, understand and solve.”
In failing to write about these – Harmless Torturers, It amounts to complacence in an offence, albeit a subtle offence with serious consequence.
What is a Harmless Torturer
In this mental exercise, introduced by Derek Parfit, we tried to imagine a push button placed in front of us. If you pressed it, a stranger who is in mild pain from being shocked, would experience a tiny increase in the amount of shock,….. so slight that he doesn’t even notice it. You pressed it, and then left. ….After which hundreds of people go up to the button and each pressed the button, so that eventually [after the cumulative socks] the victim is screaming in agony….. from the repeated shocks
Each of these button-pressing torturers – is responsible for inflicting severe pain on the other person. Very much like noxious “likes”, “comments”… placed by the seemly harmless torturers in the various online stories.
Let’s face it:
When you think of the savagery of social media, when someone writes something ugly about another person on Facebook …..or on any of the other social media platforms….…the threats…..vicious lies …. , or even harassing …..and the like, it may [or may not] be personally hurtful, but nobody notices it, and so it’s not a big deal.
However, if a day later, it has a thousand “likes”, and several hundred mocking comments, the target might well be crushed. And even though, a particular comment on its own may have caused very little or no pain, the aggregate effect is far more severe.
HOWEVER Harmless torturers never go that far; THEY are the ones who just …“like”…..“retweet” ….and add the occasional “clever” remark.
Digital media has made it possible for millions of harmless torturers to continue pushing the button…..like in the thought experiment..…ever increasing the frequency of pain [through “likes” “shares”] and the extremity [through “comments”].
“It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they’ve been fooled.”
Harmless Torturers in Real life:
Before the internet existed, gossip served a purpose ……like spreading news? ….. a process the digital media platforms have since profoundly magnified enhancing the triggers of gossip. With a system of reward built-in online …….gossip….. is sustained by the “stars”, “hearts” and “thumbs-up”.
A scenario which rewards harmless tortures has since unfolded, and we see it in social media platforms all the time as technology hijacks our psychological vulnerabilities.
“If gossip is a fire, is the internet like petrol?”
When we ignore this impact of harmless torturers, because we don’t see anyone physically hurt…..we are wrong….its hurts….
The Harmless Torturer bears a eerie resemblance to individuals who capture [and who passively witness and even encourage circulation] of videos such as the now infamous Nzomos video as he bashed his wife senselessly … Not to mention the various videos being uploaded periodically, and we watch them passively.
The Harmless Torturer ….gives the story an extra nudge with retweets …and is equally calpable! ….. for in aggregate this increases the pain [not unlike what happens in the mental experiment]……..
This resemblece continues between social media “Likes”, “retweets” and “comments”, to execution by stoning, particularly if the crowd is large: it’s hard to see the victim, and nobody has good aim.
Most of these “growth hacks” may be were technically legal but borderline unethical.Some will work but sooner than later one is likely to lose ‘users’ trust and promptly fall off the map.
And while the demenor may not neccesaryly attract the immediate attention of law enforcement agencies, don’t be too sure – this may not be for long. The hands of the new Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji, for the moment, may appear full as he cranks an almost stalled engine – I wish him well, and may he see his great grandchildren!
Just a thought; as digital media infiltrates our social lives, it is crucial that we understand the social consequences of our online behaviour.
I don’t know about you, but if we want to be decent people, before you join any online conversation or movement and happily clicking away “likes,” and “tweets,” and give your clever comment. When you feel you have right on your side, I trust you will remember that whereas sometimes the angry mob gets it right – punching up and hitting the right target.
The Harmless Torturers can just as easily swarm the weak; the mobbing can be based on lies and confusions or ignorantly encouraged by powerful online influencers, misguided celebrities and even politicians, including, notably,……. a short-sighted blogger.
Now clearly, I hope you find this an attractive idea. …..and bring it on…..
I will have succeeded, if you develop the urge to have this conversation [with yourself] and in the family on social media etiquette. And even consider a family policy on social media because its answers ethical and …sooner than later ….regulatory implications.
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