We all know that the internet is filled with hateful people. People who just want to spew off their opinions and they don’t care who they hurt or even what they are saying in some cases. Social media is maybe the worst for this. The big question we have to ask is whether or not there is even a solution to this? I suppose we could undertake some kind of change management that would ultimately make people kinder and happier. But I doubt that would work. You don’t necessarily have to agree with everyone on the internet. And surely you don’t. But you don’t have to be so intentionally cruel. Is there a way to fix this problem?
According to Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, there is a way. He suggests that tech companies are also private businesses, which means they can tell users to take their business elsewhere if they’re not adhering to the rules. He compares social media to hotels, for example. If you’re staying in a hotel, and you purposely break a specific rule, you are likely asked to leave. Or at least not to come back. So why or how is this different?
Kara Swisher (host of Recode Decode) recently interviewed Hoffman on the podcast, and Hoffman explained why he believes tech companies should issue regular report cards on their own values. He compared this to how companies issue reports on how diverse their workforce is. Which is a good point, isn’t it? Perhaps we’ve been treating troll-ism as this idea that people can’t be stopped because it’s how they are. Instead, we should be looking at the systems that enable them to be troll-like in the first place. He further suggests that positivity should be a metric that we can strive for. As a relatively negative person, I can definitely see the benefit in this. That’s not to say that I start fights on social media, but I am hard on the world, but it’s because I think we can do better. I think I can do better as well.
Hoffman makes another point that I find interesting, but mostly because it’s a strategy that I employ in my career. He suggests that instead of demonstrating what you’ve done to block negative comments, perhaps these companies should demonstrate what they are doing proactively. This is a difficult one to achieve, and something that I find challenging in my career because the system doesn’t allow us to be proactive. Which means, we can only be reactive. This is what we are seeing in social media, and while it’s stopping some of the trolls out there, it doesn’t solve the problem.
I’m not exactly sure how this would roll out. Hoffman does have some ideas and I think that’s great, but is this even possible? That’s not to suggest that I think people should continue to be trolls, but everyone deserves to have their voices heard, do they not? I would also wonder who would be monitoring these kinds of reports? Would social media platforms do this on their own, or would regulation be required? While there are a ton of questions about this idea, I do think it’s a good one. Perhaps it’s not going to eliminate all the issues with trolls completely, but it might minimize their ability to get out of hand. Worst case scenario, it stops people from being mean. The best case scenario is that it does have a positive impact on society.