We’re all now joining in the escalating battle over what constitutes free speech online, on a global scale. Be it to in-fighting between Facebook and Twitter, or the Blue Queen’s removal of the FAANG symbol from its masthead – online, it seems we’ve entered a minefield of ideas, and we’re not always confident that there’s a clear approach to deal with any of it. And, whether you’re sympathetic to his viewpoint or not, President Trump clearly doesn’t always think he’s being listened to, and in fact, this suggests he’s keen to drive his message to a wide audience.
His policies have made him the most anti-PC US president of all time, but he’s facing a big problem with the Facebook and YouTube users he relies on, in terms of their affection for digital, and who may now feel they have little scope to defend his truth. So, can we have healthy conversations online? How can we, in as well as discussing the issues and finding a place in which we want to agree to disagree, build a conversation where people can show real care for each other?
Chris Ecuele, a Welsh living in South Wales, runs MeetUp.net, an online community for people looking to meet up, and recently finished its first Facebook-based meeting in Cardiff. He says, “I just think it’s a good way of starting to have a face-to-face conversation without necessarily having to go on a long walk and ask some stranger for the time. Whereas, if you do have an online talk, you need to remember to cut it short! These sites can lead to snowball effect, which just drives that person you met five minutes ago mad – that’s not being responsible.
To create something for a larger group I’m happy to give people a ride to the venue, or even to stay for a night – if I think they want to get to know me. You don’t want to either be a place that’s seeing “everyone I’ve ever met” talk for five hours, or telling people to do “that stuff” (especially because it’s a lot harder to listen than respond) – that isn’t respectful for anyone. People meet online when they’re looking for a support network or when they need to engage with something in a concrete way – a discussion is just a guide in the way to both of those interests.”