I was interviewed recently for an NBC story covering social media, rape, and suicide. Marianne Favro was looking to the positive in her story focusing on the ability of the twitter hashtags #RapeCulture and #EndRapeCulture to mobilize change. As you'll see at the end of the story, I make the comment you see often here: Technology alone can't solve a problem. We need human, technical, and organizational dimensions to all work in concert to make change.
The title of this post rhymes for a reason. Cyber bullying, using electronic media to harm others, was an issue in the news story. Our use, no matter our age, of social media is evolving through trial and error rather than through education. We have an opportunity to make organizational change that might reduce some of the harm.
In school, children are taught about Stranger Danger. Kids are told not to talk to strangers and if they feel something is wrong, they should tell an adult they know. We need something similarly simple for social media use.
Kids: When in doubt, don't send it out
If you receive a message designed to hurt someone, don't forward it. I'm offering this simple rhyme as a first draft. I hope those involved with children's safety will take up the challenge to find something better. There are classes on preventing cyber bullying, but they don't seem to have gone mainstream.
Adults: When in doubt, don't send it out
The Boston bombing taught many adults a similar message. Mat Honen writes today in Wired Magazine that he was taken in by misinformation and tweeted the name of an innocent person as a suspect. He writes of his regret and makes a plea for more control:
We all need to be more careful on Twitter in regards to what is true and what is not. We all should be more skeptical. (And, honestly, I should be better about taking my own advice.) But Twitter can help this process become cleaner, more efficient, more reliable. While it’s true that Twitter is good at correcting errors via viciously effective crowdsourcing, it needs a better way to self-correct, to take it back, to fight the rumors of our own creation.
Please share with the children in your lives: When in doubt, don't send it out. Show the message to an adult. And then we need to follow-up. Let's try and make a tiny bit of good out of these recent tragedies.