Did Facebook and Twitter Make Us Better or Worse in 2016?

Yesterday, I got caught up in letting my frustration over the election boil over onto Twitter, and it's definitely not the first time.  

It made me ask the following question:

Were we better off in 2016 having Facebook and Twitter around?

I talked about it with a few people.  One brought up #blacklivesmatter and while I hope some important issues were highlighted, I really don't see these platforms bringing about positive change in the real world.  I retweeted and liked things I cared about, but I can't say they led me to take much in the way of real action.  

There's a narrative around these platforms that all connection is good--a pride they seem to take in things like #Arabspring, as if revolutions never happened before social media.  They seem blind to what's going on in the everyday experience.  

We didn't used to be this dumb.

I'm annoyed that these platforms with so much human potential are designed not to make us more educated, more aware, or more empathetic, but to keep us clicking--to suck us in no better than when the nightly news warns of what will kill us, just later in the program.  

Someone mentioned the other day that news used to be a loss-leader for media companies, so they never tried to make it into entertainment.  They did the news out of a sense of responsibility.  As the media business model got more competitive, and the "Big Three" networks felt competition, the function of news changed.

Perhaps Facebook needs to start thinking of news the way monopolistic media giants used to think about it--one of the few ways they didn't make much money.  With great power comes great responsibility, no?

I'm not saying Facebook needs to take a view--but it can have a mission to improve the level of dialogue.

Technology has the capability to verify claims and to inform us of skewed perspectives.  It can encourage more out of us.  After all, who posts an Instagram without working on it for a few minutes first?

What if social media stopped you before you reposted something dubious or inflammatory--even if just for a moment, to remind you of what you were doing.  

What if there was a cost to hate?

When I drive around in a Car2Go rental, it reminds me whether I'm driving smoothly and in an eco-friendly manner or whether I'm treating this Smart car like my Mustang.  If I'm not, it threatens to suspend my account.

What if I was only allotted a few hate points a month?

The smartest designers in the world could help us be our best selves--and for sure, we need to be better than we are.  

Sometimes we're great and sometimes we're not--but I fear that 2016 has brought out the worst in too many of us.  If we are to accomplish anything, we need to live on the other end of this spectrum.

Perhaps the greatest thing the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative can work on is Facebook itself, before it tears ourselves apart.  

Other people can raise money for cancer and poverty, but unlocking mass human potential through discourse is a unique opportunity for social media problems to take more seriously.

I wish them all the best at it, starting the day after tomorrow.  Our only hope is that tomorrow marks the end of a very bad time for social platforms.