Going at social networking from the wrong angle

Enrique Dans. Profesor. IE Business School

13 March 2013

Social networks are just like life because there are always some bad-mannered people around who insult all and sundry. They are trolls and the problem can be solved by simply blocking them, but never by leaving network. That way you have let them win.

The assimilation phase of new technology in society tends to lead to paradoxical situations, because the development of associated social norms do not always keep pace with said assimilation process.

The use of mobile telephones, for example, spread extremely quickly. User-friendly handsets at relatively low prices led to a meteoric rise in levels of use. Nevertheless, many years after the popularization of the mobile telephone, there are still a lot of people who haven’t a clue about how to use it with a modicum of manners.

A similar situation occurred with social networking. There are practically no barriers to entry when it comes to using it, but the assimilation and understanding of how to use it are another matter altogether.

We have recently seen how a well-known member of the Spanish parliament announced that she would be leaving Twitter, because some people kept systematically insulting her children. The situation is obviously very unpleasant. But while I don’t wish to judge her reaction, I have to ask myself if this person went out onto the street and passersby started hurling insults at her children, would that stop her from ever going out onto the street again? If they sent her anonymous insults by letter, would she stop opening her mail? Because the situation, in reality is exactly the same. It is unfortunately inevitable that there are bad-mannered people in the world, and that in a relatively new environment these people do not understand that they can’t go around insulting others. These people are known as trolls. And when faced with a troll we all know what we have to do, and that is to block them, it’s as simple as that. End of story and end of insults. If they are incapable of good manners, they won’t get a response. Don’t feed trolls. And don’t whatever you do let them win.

To announce that you are leaving because of the trolls is just ridiculous, and will not achieve anything except to detract from a tool like social networking, and all because some people don’t know how to use it properly. It’s a case of going at something from completely the wrong angle. An absurd mistake to make.

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