The Online Dialogue and Decency Movement is Unstoppable
When tech takes action, users and creators can finally pitch in effectively. Against all odds, words still matter.
Fear, anger, and greed may not power the internet for much longer.
Too little too late?
“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
— Arthur Ashe
Even if your business model has been to empower the lowest common denominator to reach critical mass fast, even if you’ve elevated garbage fanning the flames of outrage, even if your livelihood is built on it, it’s never too late to pivot.
Fearful people are docile.
Angry people are engaged.
Greedy people are growing their bottom line, whatever it takes.
It’s a lucrative formula for business but democracy has been picking up the tab. Then again, social media platforms aren’t public utilities although we use them as such.
They remain private entities. You might argue they’re just capitalizing on a trend but if human decency is finally trending?
It won’t be a moment too soon.
As a user, you shape up or you ship out.
Don’t like the content? Don’t pay for it, be it with your eyeballs, your time, or your money.
You can’t de-platform dumb but you can, if you so wish, defund it, or at minimum refuse to amplify it. In editorial terms, this means no more hate reads: There’s a reason editors don’t commission them.
Not all polarizing pieces are hate reads, however.
A good one forces us to look at a common issue under a different angle to broaden our perspective. A bad one is indignant and points the finger, chewing out one particular person (or group of people) and attempting to ride trending topics to make bank (celebs falling from grace is a favorite).
“You affect the world by what you browse.”
— Tim Berners-Lee
This is how we end up with frenzied masses on the hunt for scapegoats, not solutions.
But if platforms are now taking steps to turn back into sandboxes where tech, thought leaders, and users can incubate a better internet?
So what about creators though?
The internet remains disingenuously Wittgensteinian: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”
Instead of pushing back, most media outlets and creators prefer to co-opt the garbage formula to grow their brands as they hawk epic feats of storytelling about themselves or how to make money on platforms. Cue an ever-growing parasite cottage industry that is only concerned with how to juice eyeballs.
Unsurprisingly, thinking has been sliding backward since 2016, aligning perfectly with the greatest show on Earth that is Trump’s America and its profiteering culture.
Refuse to pander and you’re riding your bike against gale force wind in the rain. This is definitely fringe. For every dude bro advising you to “write stories we can’t google”, there’s a mommy blogger who can’t get the name of her kid straight, and the internet that has been paying attention has many, many questions about how real those people are, exactly.
Beside Alex Jones who claimed being honest as his superpower and POTUS, how many people attempt to fabricate their way to success with tall tales and personas every single day?
The whole world has a vested interest in America being as morally, politically, and emotionally healthy as possible: What happens in the US affects us all too.
Thanks to a global pandemic, the internet finally came into its own as a lifeline so it’s heartening to see tech take action to ensure ethics are no longer optional. Until now, algorithms, design, and UX weren’t always set up to support them. Many users and creators chose to disregard them.
That option is now being taken away. Users are leaving and employees are holding the platforms that won’t self-actualize accountable while the others commit to words that matter. On balance, this represents progress, at last, and we all get to be part of it (if we feel so inclined).
Enthusiasm is like a bike: ride it or it rusts.
Words are the bicycle pump.
Write (up) good.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.