(Image originally from Mashable)
In the Globe and Mail today, columnist Lysiane Gagnon writes:
Then social media arrived, with their good sides and their bad sides, and introduced a new culture, a culture where anyone can publish anything about anybody, with the Internet acting as a giant, unfiltered, viral poster. A person’s reputation – her most precious possession – can be destroyed in a click.
There's right and wrong in her perspective (not least of which on the *fail* side she blames social media for today's "gutter journalism"; that's simply sophistry).
The internet has seen the rebirth of 'doxa' — the manipulation of opinion through rumor — which can result in a dangerous jump to judgment. Reputations — of individuals and companies — can be shredded without proof and without the benefit of the doubt being given.
But there is a filter and partial antidote to this social web vigilantism and that is the intelligent crowd.
True, the majority of people jump on the snarky train too quickly. But two things will begin (and are beginning) to happen:
- Smart people are raising cautions in the middle of the nasty firestorms, even around someone with the questionable mental acuity of Toronto mayor Rob Ford
- People in the social media demos will learn from their mistakes, as with the misleading tweets during the Boston Marathon bombings. They will become more cautious and contemplative about their judgments and less ready to join the social mob.
I don't have an easy time trusting public opinion. It is often so wrong. After all, Ford was elected in the first place.
Nevertheless, I'm seeing more circumspect tweets and Facebook posts whenever others are hastily mocking or attacking someone who could be innocent. And that's a strong signal we are becoming a more sophisticated online democracy.
Now if only activist groups made a similar commitment to a higher standard of research and reflection before denunciation.