Tag Archives: civility

Online Civility, Part 4: How to Design for Civility

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Part 4 of 4

In a thoughtful essay “How Can Communication Technology Encourage Civility?” on the website Big Questions Online, Derek Powazek examines the question, “What is it about online comments that makes us so awful?”

He reviews a number of studies on this topic, including one from 2006 in which a common room in a workplace had a refrigerator stocked with drinks. People who took a drink were encouraged to make a voluntary donation into an “honesty box.” One set of people had a box with a photo of flowers on it; the second group had a box with a photo of human eyes on it. Even a photo of eyes — the concept of being watched — influenced their behavior. After being monitored for 10 weeks, the people who saw the eyes were nearly three times as likely as the others to make a donation.

Now think about how that applies to the anonymous world of the Internet. But Powazek points out there are ways to make people feel part of a group that’s watching — for example, avatars of other community members who are reading or have read a story online. I think he’s on to something, because there are websites where I feel more or less anonymous, and it definitely affects what I say and how I say it.

This and other studies leads him to conclude that there’s no way to eliminate bad behavior online, but says the people and organizations that who create digital experiences can “design for civility.” Specifically, he says that civility can be improved by doing these things:

  • Use community managers and software to weed out bad apples.
  • Design features to show that people are watching.
  • Make sure the visual design reinforces the interaction with color and shape.
  • And do everything you can to make people feel in control.

What sites do this well, and how are you “designing for civility”?

Online Civility, Part 3: Ranting is Hazardous to Your Health

Part 3 of 4
rantCivility on my own Facebook page took a hit in late 2012, after the contentious presidential election ended only to be bumped from the headlines by the shooting at Sandy Hook — and the accompanying debate over gun control. Many of my friends shared my perspectives on both events, but I was quickly reminded that my 1,300 friends are a diverse and opinionated group.

After I posted a few items that I didn’t think were provocative or controversial, my page was full of comments and arguments — between people who didn’t even know each other. I realized that reading political attacks (on both sides) and reactions to my own posts was bringing me down. I decided to be more selective about my posts, and how I worded them. I don’t like to unfriend people, but I also hid several people from my news feed — and almost immediately felt a sense of relief.

It turns out there’s a scientific explanation for what I experienced, because research shows that “Ranting on Websites May Just Make You Angrier.” Several studies published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking show that people who rant online often feel better after posting, but feel more anger generally. And reading and writing negative comments is associated with negative mood shifts.

Lead author Ryan Martin explains, “The Internet brings out impulsivity problems more than anything else. It’s too easy to respond right away when you are most angry.” The anonymity of the web makes this problem even worse. “People are angry at big groups of people — Democrats, Republicans, illegal immigrants. People want to feel like they’re doing something and think just expressing their feelings to the world will help.”

Martin said there’s nothing wrong with feeling anger, but it’s healthier and more effective to get involved, solve problems, and try to make a difference.

How do negative comments and posts affect you? And what have you done to minimize negativity?

Online Civility, Part 2: Haters and Your Reputation

Part 2 of 4HatersGonnaHatePanda

One of the best ways to protect your own online reputation from “haters” is to steer clear of negativity yourself.

In “The Connection Between Online Anonymity and Civility” on reputation.com, Shelly Wutke warns that online haters can damage your internet reputation and gives tips to steer clear of online hating. She says the best way to protect your own reputation is to “leave the online hating to others.”

You can’t control what others post, but you are in charge of your own online behavior. Wutke advises that you:

  • avoid posting negative comments to celebrities and large corporations;
  • don’t pretend to be someone you’re not; and
  • think twice before sending a negative tweet or comment (specifically, wait five minutes before hitting “send.”)

Online Civility, Part 1: Huffington Post’s Ban on Anonymous Accounts a Necessary Step for Productive Dialogue

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Part 1 of 4

The Huffington Post’s recent decision to ban anonymous commenting has sparked a debate about privacy and civility online. Do people have a right to rant, attack, and hate online? Do news organizations have a responsibility to provide an open forum for anything anyone wants to post?

In “The Reason HuffPost is Ending Anonymous Accounts,” managing editor Jimmy Soni offers a compelling defense for this decision.”We are capable of doing far worse things to one another when we do not have to own up to the things we do,” he writes. “One glance at our comment section or the comment sections of other sites demonstrates what we’re all up against. Trolls have grown more vicious, more aggressive, and more ingenious….

“We’ve reached a point where roughly three-quarters of our incoming comments never see the light of day, either because they are flat-out spam or because they contain unpublishable levels of vitriol.”

Soni explains that users will not have to share their identity in connection with each comment; they simply need to have their identity confirmed when setting up an account. In my next few posts, I’ll cover the ways negative posting can hurt your own online reputation and specific ways you and your organization can help facilitate more civility online.

Do you support the Huffington Post’s decision?