Online Conversations

I read an article today, Don't let Social Media Think for You and it got me thinking.

There is no room for nuance, there is no room for grey. Every interaction is based on reaction alone - reflection is rendered moot, because there will always be another scandal that needs attending to.

This is a sentiment I agree with and my gripe with social media is nothing new. Something I'm becoming more and more a believer of though, is this idea that we can still have excellent conversations online. I am 100% certain that that's a possibility. The main issue we're facing with social media discussions is that we're forced to accept the boundaries and constraints imposed by the platform. There's no space for nuance on Twitter and that's by design. The same is true on Instagram and honestly if you're trying to have a conversation on Instagram you're out of your mind. Social media is designed for reactions. It's not designed for back and forth dialog and it's not designed for conversations that span across multiple hours or days or even weeks and months.

Forums used to be the public places to have those conversations. But in 2021, Reddit has probably captured almost all the audience that used to be active on forums. There's still a few here and there but they're nowhere near as "important" as they were 10 or 15 years ago.

And so we're left with just a few places where people can have discussions and most of them are not structured to have said discussions. As a result of that, the clusterfuck described in the article is a daily occurrence. We get outraged by something, people start virtually yelling at each other, we waste a few hours, we pat ourselves on the back and we move on to the next event.

Now, is there an alternative? Yes. I said it many times before, I'll keep saying it till the day I die, or until someone invents something better: private conversations via email. If you care about discussing something with someone, like genuinely care, try contacting them directly, in private, via email. In doing that you're removing all the constrains imposed on you by social media platforms, you're giving yourself time and space to explain your ideas in full, and you can provide all sorts of extra material to enhance the conversation. And there's no crowd watching which is another terrible aspect of social media.

Now, if you're a tech person you can also decide to share your thoughts publicly on your site which is great. But in my experience, a good conversation requires back and forth and there's no better way to do that than emails. So my advice is, for anyone who has interest in having good online conversations, have a public email address where people can reach you and try to engage with people that way too.