Eli Pariser (What Obligation Do Social Media Platforms Have to the Greater Good) on Ted Talks Daily said, “Facebook right now I sort of think of as 1970s New York. The public spaces are decaying, there’s trash in the streets, people are mentally and emotionally warming themselves over burning garbage, and the natural response is to hole up in your apartment or consider fleeing to the suburbs.” This comment was received with loud applause and laughter.
In all honesty, the very people applauding are probably contributing to the decay of the social media space. What Eli suggests is creating responsible digital spaces in the way that cities build towns. To most that sounds like censorship, and as administrators of Facebook groups have soon discovered, moderating, not censorship, builds a productive and safer online community.
Towns have parks, public libraries, town halls, and the spaces are regulated or moderated. What he suggests is coming with Virtual Reality where you are facing the person you are talking to in a space you have created that encourages better discussions, supportive environments, and a place to worship if that doesn’t exist in your country. The problem is in people.
We cross boundaries, make assumptions, and refuse to change our behavior even if that may convince someone to understand our point of view. Hence, the applause in the video reminds me we are always great at sharing things we think other people need to learn but forget the humility of admitting when we are wrong.
So, how do we create a better digital space?
- Exercising self-control in the face-to-face is just as important in the digital world. Measure your words.
- Research what you share to sustain moral authority, so people believe you when you talk about the Bible.
- Don’t react. Respond. In fact, the beauty of social media is the lack of obligation to respond quickly. We can instead choose to get back to the conversation when we have emptied our minds of damaging and defensive emotions. How many times have we imagined what we could have said later? Social media gives us those options.
- Refrain from humor others won’t understand.
- Create parks, town halls, libraries, cafes, and other conversation-friendly spaces online to meet a need, create a bond, and build a friendship.
- Most importantly, don’t assume you have the right to tell someone how to live. Build trust first. Think about mentoring the person rather than trying to make a mini-you.
- Be teachable.
Social media may make you feel like fleeing to the suburbs or holing up in your apartment (i.e. leaving social media).
Digital discipleship is investing your time online in real conversation using whatever technology is available and finding ways to meet in the face-to-face. Transforming communities in the face-to-face starts with our behavior online and who we choose to share our life with. Instead of burning garbage, let’s instead build a real fire that warms the soul and shines a light into the darkness with the sweet aromas of friendship, love, and truth.