How to discuss things civilly on social media

Everything is discussed on social media. How to raise children, which car to buy, gay rights, gun rights, which fountain pen is better, and everything else. Recently, I have stopped being any part of such discussions. The reason is quite simple: nothing can be discussed civilly on social media. Nothing.

There are two main reasons why you cannot discus things civilly on the Internet. One, you apply no level of thought or reason to what you are writing and are just reacting to something. Secondly, you apply a high level of thought and/or reason to what you are writing. The third reason (and really a sub-reason) is that you are just a jerk and social media automatically amplifies your level of jerk by a magnitude of 10.

Let us take the ethicist Kevin Carnahan, he is actually part of the reason why I am writing this post. Kevin writes incredibly thoughtful replies on social media all the time. Not too surprisingly he gets a lot of flak for just about anything he writes. Why? Because the things he writes contains more than five words and arguments that are detailed and logical.

The problem originates (at least partially) with the medium itself. These words typed on this page (screen) could be sarcastic or they could be sincere. If you were privy to my tone of voice that I can hear as I write, you would know. But you are not so you cannot. I do, by the way, mean all of this sincerely.

Social media’s life blood is fueled by our short attention spans. Anything of sincere meaning needs to be conveyed in 140 characters or less or else it risks being ignored entirely.

 

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About Nicholas Wyant

I am the Head of Social Sciences at Indiana University Wells Library. I am responsible for Political Science, Criminal Justice & Social Work. In addition to my subject areas I also study student's interaction with technology. Recently, I have altered my methods from a sociological perspective to an anthropological one.
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