Perhaps instead of fixing Facebook, Facebook will fix us

My friend and founder of the Social Media Club back in the day Chris Heuer asked the following question on Facebook: “What was the original promise of #SocialMedia? For you?”.

The implication being that, as early pioneers of the medium/model, our collective creation has not gone the way we wanted.

I answered…

  1. To show us that, at a high level, we all have the same hopes, fears and intentions. To use that knowledge to reduce fear of the unknown “other” — and therefore reduce conflict.
  2. To democratize publishing so that we could all tell our own authentic stories — first hand accounts — free of sensationalism, filters or bullshit. To reveal the untold stories of the world — some of them forgotten for far too long.

Also: keep in mind that all disruption at first appears painful and bad. Especially to those being disrupted.

Obviously those two things didn’t quite work out so well. So far.

However, I want to expand on that last point — because it only just occurred to me in the context of social media/Russian bots etc.

Disruption is painful to those getting disrupted.

Uber is convenient for people trying to get around their city. It sucks for cab drivers and — most especially — medallion owners.

AirBnB is great for travelers. It sucks for hotel companies.

Perhaps we are simply in the true disruption phase of Social Media.

Perhaps It has amplified and clarified our worst instincts and voices and, in doing so, it is forcing us to confront ourselves.

It’s showing us our envy, pride and emptiness. It’s showing our lack of education, rational thinking, and common sense. It’s highlighting our racism.

It’s also shown us the genocides, the desperation and the violence that we turned a blind eye to.

It’s showing those of us who lived in a safe bubble that the rest of the world is here, and it has something to say.

These new global voices have also shown us that there is no single truth because there are many valid perspectives — and some of those perspectives appear totally at odds with our own. That’s pretty hard to understand and confront for people who’ve grown up on simple good vs evil narratives.

Perhaps that’s the most valuable lesson of all. It’s forced us to grow up and understand that there’s a whole world of people out there — and they may not be as educated, safe or empowered as we are.

Are we going to complain? Or are we going to step up and make things better by solving the underlying problems in society? Are we going to build bridges, create better shared understandings, educate the young and teach rational thinking?

Maybe now that we’ve shaped the tool, it’s time for this tool to shape us.

The alternative is that we will just default to easy answers like #deletefacebook or Russian hacking so we’re not forced to confront these things anymore.