The Human Side of Social Media


"Anytime there is a tweet, post, picture, or any sort of content on social media...there is a human being behind that."

After recently reading some interesting perspectives on the popular app Yik Yak from folks like Eric Stoller and Paul Gordon Brown, I recently had some thoughts of my own on the subject in a macro sense.

Anonymity on the web is a topic for serious discussion and there have been a lot of concerns lately about privacy and protecting our information, which are definitely completely valid. I personally typically fall on the side of being open and authentic online. In general though, especially when it comes to the civil discourse of important topics while on social media, I feel being ourselves is always valuable and necessary.

Whether it is the use of a screen name on YouTube or cyberbullying incidents that have become more common on campuses across the country, there is a basic tenant of being ourselves in the various social networks we inhabit. Much of the vitriol and negativity online comes when there is no accountability to the person saying it. The types of things we say to each other on the web would never be uttered in public. The protective shroud of anonymity allows for hateful things to come out of us, which I would attribute to being emotional knee jerk responses rather than how we all know we should treat each other.

A public, personal web is one where people can be accountable to what they say, and represent what is truly behind their words; a human being. We often forget that anytime there is a tweet, post, picture, or any sort of content on social media, there is a human being behind that. Someone took the time to type something out and send it, no matter what you might think. We should engage with empathy, as we would in any other venue.

I look forward to a more civil, respectful web where we are able to authentically connect about the issues and topics that matter to us. How we get there is through being mindful of the other people out there with us, and through digital literacy. As a student affairs professional, everyday I help people understand the power of their actions on others, we should be doing the same for the digital realm. I fully support programs, workshops, and tools to help students (and anyone really) learn how to best behave online. I believe the type of negativity I see on Yik Yak and elsewhere is not us. I am optimistic in people's true natures and have seen the type of positive outcomes that can come from online communities. We can and will do better in our online interactions in the future, we just have to work to make that a reality sooner rather than later.

I appreciate your thoughts on this...and as always, thanks for stopping by.