The use of that hashtag is an angry shout for the Black Lives Matter movement in the U.S.
There’s what I think is a misguided article by Matt Ridley in The Times, blaming Twitter
and Facebook for most of the current global dysfunction: the rioting, the fractured politics and increasingly sensational media – “Social media is polarising discourse more painfully than before. It amplifies the personal and the extreme, heats up the echo chamber and gives wings to lies.”
His logic is in this Italian article, which he references: “Users tend to aggregate in communities of interest, which causes reinforcement and fosters confirmation bias, segregation, and polarization. This comes at the expense of the quality of the information and leads to proliferation of biased narratives fomented by unsubstantiated rumors, mistrust, and paranoia.”
Social Media: it’s a Public Relations challenge
And it’s true, social media is one cause of the chaos.
But genie is out of the bottle and it’s the new reality. The flaw is not Ridley’s observation above, but his projection that we have to tame Twitter before it causes mob rule.
The solution lies, not in censoring social media, but learning to harness it.
A lot of us at the coal-face think a lot about this. Activism, on a smaller scale to the mass chaos we are seeing in the US and elsewhere, is now a part of our work. Social media managers on corporate and government social channels work to pacify or educate a range of angry groups from animal activists to dietary fanatics, and from short-changed shareholders to anti-government protestors. And in the end it’s our experience that, with honest and persistent engagement, truth almost always wins.
It used to be, when I was a mainstream journalist, that activists always had the first word in the media because they were sensational and demanding change. The headline belonged to them, and it still does, so in that sense nothing’s changed.
And remember the trust wasn’t first broken by an angry mob, but by politicians, advertising execs and other hucksters. So the ultimate solution lies with them. The shock is that angry mobs now have a louder voice, which I find, not threatening, but exciting.