The Social Truth
An allegation is an assertion until it can be proven but this doesn’t stop companies from reacting immediately to a social truth.
I define a social truth as something that is true because it is supported or corroborated to some extent on social media. The result is that many voices become one message which may or may not be factual but seemingly without hard facts (at the point of entry onto social media) true.
This is a really difficult issue and highly concerning for our time. In a recent television show, Seth MacFarlane actually addresses the complexity of this in Orville “Majority Rules” As a side note on this, I think MacFarlane is paying a true homage to Star Trek (original series).
As we are living in this new norm of social media, I believe this is very dangerous. I use social media and I believe it is a powerful tool for communication. The concern is that we are heading towards and even living in a “mob rules” aka Ochlocracy situation. Whether political, social, military or corporate action taken on social media, the result recently has been immediate action. The new normal in business is “speed” and “sentiment” but this has many costs and risks associated that follow. In the entertainment business there are billions of dollars at stake and while this alone may not be a big deal to normal people, it sets a precedence that is concerning.
Social @ Work
Generally speaking social media at work has been helpful to companies. There have been a few situations (Google most recently) where social has created an issue that became public. It seems that as quickly as these things bubble up, they also go away.
They go away from our view, but what reminiscence they leave behind and the troubles or costs are troubling. Many companies today are moving away from community management and now leaving communities to self-govern. The result is internal mob rules which is also dangerous. CEO’s can get ousted based on an implication. Careers can be destroyed because someone made a statement. What is starting to happen is people are becoming more fearful in some cases and embolden in others. Having courage to speak your mind in a corporate setting is important but the channels in which we use are also critically important.
Whether or not for example Uber former CEO Travis Kalanick is guilty of the actions in which he is accused it should have been independent of Uber itself. Many people today won’t take Uber just because it feels wrong.
Law and Justice
We need fairness in our society. We need to be consistent and we need law to keep order. In the world we live in, it is dangerous for our families and our children because we are always recorded and there is no forgiveness of words or actions recorded. A record automatically put on social media becomes the fact and that fact is judged with immediacy. The public is now prosecuting people through this record and the higher the counts of which people speak of an action or deed, the faster things happen. It isn’t that way in every single case, but it becoming that way more often. It is driving us apart as a nation and it is impacting us on a global scale. It is now becoming harder and harder to know what is true and what is not.
There is a difference between free speech and yelling about danger in a movie theater. What we may be doing today on social media is the equivalent of yelling “fire” on a scale never before seen.
I think we can have our say as a society and have safety at the same time. Community managers have historically and successfully been involved with cultivating and managing social communities. They look for indicators and help facilitate and control conversation. They exist today on Wikipedia and Quora and many other places but they really don’t have a strong presence in other areas. That’s not to say there aren’t controls in place but there aren’t community managers. We need to find ways to inject people into situations where things are trending high to make decisions on when to buffer conversations. This doesn’t mean to control or stifle conversation, it simply means to take a look at what and where people are yelling “fire” and make a determination as to potentially pause the discussion for the greater good. This is dangerous territory and a tough subject but I believe if we keep going down this road as-is, there will be proverbial hell to pay.
What are your thoughts?