Today’s post is about Instagram’s coming move to introduce new features available for the public, giving them the ability to censor comments, or to disable them all together. Users will be given the possibility to define words, phrases or emoticons that they don’t want to appear in their profile comments. Also, Instagram will introduce the option to disable comments for specific posts. Here is a shot of what the feature might look like from a test made on a brand profile.
According to Washington Post and The Verge, these new features are currently tested and are due to roll out to all users in the coming weeks. This initiative is part of a generalized concern on all social media platforms towards fighting harassment. But will this move succeed in stopping harassment or will it rather hinder communication?
I am about to make a rather philosophical argument, but bare with me for a moment. Let’s assume that all social media platforms will follow Instagram’s example and give the users the power to censor their walls, picture comments and so on? What would this lead to?Let’s see! First of all, it would lead to fewer conversations, overall. People would make use of the new technical features to block communication when the feedback they’d receive wouldn’t suit their expectations. Whereas in any communication handbook you would find that feedback in itself, positive or not, is good because it gives you a chance to adjust yourself to your peers and to alter your behavior for the better, when circumstances ask for it. If given a chance to dismiss the negative feedback in a legit way, supported by technology, some users would be ripped of the benefits of negative feedback translated into self improvement.
Secondly, it is not only the given censoring user who is consuming the content on their profile, actually, it is mainly the others who consume their content. That means that all the learning benefits that other people’s embarrassment, bullying and even harassment experiences will disappear, and social media will start resembling less and less the real world. Indeed, people would witness less harassment, I will give them that, but they would also be confronted with less challenging situations that would have helped them grow, they would witness less bravery, less compelling argumentation, and less resolutions, overall.
Finally, one might argue that the changes are not that drastic, because you can already remove comments from your profiles. That is indeed a good point, but let’s have a closer look.
- Up until now, instances of people removing inconvenient comments were seen as inappropriate. Now, suddenly, Instagram tells us it isn’t the case anymore.
- Censoring the feedback you receive, in an automatic way, will not allow comments to go up at all, which is not the case now, when you have to diligently remove the “bad” comments as they come, involving an actual human being acting in a relatively rational way.
- Contrary to the stated purpose of the feature, censoring will not be generally used against harassment, but against open debate, embarrassment, competitors, all of which aren’t in fact felonies, but mere acts of life.
All in all, we are still to see what is coming and how it will end up being used. My concern is that these little incremental changes take the social media world in a strange direction, one that will not resemble real life anymore. And, given that, will all those kids that live their lives submerged in these platforms, remain fit for the real harsh world?