Be Kind Rewind (Your Comments)

We all scroll down to get to the comments. But are we careful about what we say? We need to be cognizant that a comment reaches a living person.

tweetIf you remember watching movies on VHS, you surely recall the slogan affixed to nearly every tape you rented: Be Kind Rewind. The phrase was a concise way of saying:

Thank you for watching this movie as an individual. But to ensure the maximum benefit for other individuals, we want to remind you that your behavior is going to impact other people! Yes, I know. You are just watching Goonies in the privacy of your own home on a Saturday night. But your action, or lack thereof, will have an impact on other people who want to watch this movie. You can make their life better by doing this one small step. So how about you rewind this tape when you’re done? Great! Now enjoy the movie.

If everyone knew they should rewind a VHS tape, why did they affix this gentle reminder? Because a reminder impacts our behavior. It nudges us towards our better angels. The inference of Be Kind Rewind is that you areunkind if you do not rewind. It is subtle social pressure towards better behavior.

Where’s our Be Kind Rewind for the Internet Age? We are in dire need of one. As we focus on ways to reduce Troll behavior throughout social media, we would be well served to consider environmental factors and reminders, as opposed to focusing entirely on educating users to be kinder online. That’s essential, but only one part of the equation. A more effective solution may entail:

Instilling digital citizenship skills + reminders + environmental factors

Instilling digital citizenship skills: Teaching people to be kinder online is connected with understanding the impact that comments have. The more we are cognizant that a comment reaches a living, breathing person (as opposed to a persona), the better.

Reminders: What if there was a reminder featured on social media sites that assists in pulling a user towards their better instincts. It would be wonderful to have the digital citizenship community work together towards promoting a positive reminder. I’ll start with a suggestion: Comment with Care.

Environmental Factors: The more negativity you are surrounded with, the more likely you are to be negative. Vitriol begets vitriol. Similar to the Broken Windows Theory, people are dramatically influenced by their environment.

Every time we tweet, we constantly have to remind ourselves to be good digital citizens. How much would it influence us to have an outside reminder?

Yik Yak is attempting a similar reminder method, although they tie it in with keyword recognition done AFTER someone types as opposed to being a precursor to typing. Their program scans posts, or yaks, for keywords that are associated with offensive posts. After the keyword is picked up, the user receives this message:

“Pump the brakes, this yak may contain threatening language. Now it’s probably nothing and you’re probably an awesome person but just know that Yik Yak and law enforcement take threats seriously. So you tell us, is this yak cool to post?”

Here’s some food for thought: Are we either good digital citizens or trolls, OR does nearly everyone have a troll inside of them? That might not be a pleasant thought. This harks back to the classic philosophical question of whether people are either Good or Bad, or if we are instead Good people capable, given the right situation, of bad behavior.

If nearly everyone is capable of troll behavior, we are going to have to approach this issue from multiple directions. Sitting there watching a VHS as a kid, I knew that as a good citizen I should do my small part by rewinding the tape for the next renter. But that little reminder, Be Kind Rewind, made me more likely to be good. It was a silly little slogan, but it influenced my behavior.

Let’s have this discussion. But please, comment with care.

David Ryan Polgar - Lioness Magazine

David Ryan Polgar is a digital lifestyle expert who explores our relationship with technology from a legal, ethical, emotional, and sociological perspective. Having a background as an attorney and educator, he brings a unique viewpoint to tech commentary, emerging trends, and as the Communications Director for the startup Copilot Family. Find him on Twitter @TechEthicist.


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