The Running Commentary

Social media – Debate platforms NOT!

Social Media is not a place for debate

The problem with holding a debate within the social media landscape is that it removes a fundamental tenant of debate, two or more people dialoguing with each other. It leaves far too much open to interpretation and does not allow for constructive input. It brings unrelated parties together and allows people to enter and leave the “debate” at whichever point they feel. It can never leave you feeling satisfied, regardless of which side of the argument you are on.

One of my friends gave me great insight, which applies too, in the context of discussion. We react to a situation based on our interpretation of the situation or event. The critical point here being, “our interpretation”, informed by our own set of life situations and skills, will drive our reaction. This is regardless of whether the event was good or bad.

The simplest analogy: A birthday party; if your experience of childhood was that birthday’s sucked, then simply hearing “happy birthday” from anyone could place you in a foul mood. The person wishing you has good intention, but your experience gives rise to another reaction.

The effect

So looking at the series of 12 tweets that Helen Zille sent out we see a narrative, not just a single tweet. However many people only saw the one “defending colonialism gains” and that enjoyed the rightful wrath of many. What Helen Zilles intentions were vs. what was perceived by the readers, was very different. Helen Zille tried to make amends, but because she didn’t see anything wrong with her tweets, even her “apology” was taken to pieces

Helen Zille has now written an article, to give an in depth explanation of the Singapore story, you can read it here

Herein lies the rub. Twitter, as with any social media channel, is not a platform to be holding any form of “debate”. Twitter, specifically, should always be viewed as a “moment in time” platform. A place where the most you can achieve is an announcement, never a debate.

I am angry with Helen Zille because her tweet has created a base for people to make all sorts of claims, which include comments such as: “All you people are racist”; “you all think that colonialism was good”.

The tweet from Helen Zille now forces us all to have to work a little harder at breaking down further walls that have been put up because of it. Essentially, the groundswell of negative sentiment intensifies, and so to the work of reconciliation that needs to take place.

 A final thought…for us all

Simply following a person on social media does not make you know them or their character any better. Many people hurl insults at each other on these platforms, insults they would never dream of hurling directly at the person in real life.

The challenge is that social media platforms are in fact more permanent than real life. Essentially once you have made the “statement” you can never retract it, at best you can spend days, weeks, months and years making “further statements of clarity” or apologies. It is forever left in the ether to return to plague you at the most inopportune moments.

Real life, most often, carries an air of correct engagement which allows for feedback, both verbal and non verbal, to happen. Critical emphasis here on the “most often” and “non verbal”

So perhaps we should all be reviewing our social media commentary and whether we can in fact convey our true intentions through these spaces.

DAdebateFACEBOOKHelen ZilleleadershipMike Tabernersocial mediaSouth AfricaTWITTER

Mike • March 20, 2017

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