One thing I’ve always feared about social media is anonymity: whatever reasons I hear that claim the need to be faceless, leave me unconvinced. But, check the pros and cons for yourself. Trolls, or snipers in the social media space, thrive on being faceless and nameless, and go silent once exposed, even by the hint that they may be known.
My personal view is that ‘conversations’ go better when you know with whom you interact; that need not mean you have to get touchy-feely with everyone who mixes words with you. But, knowing that, at least, your interaction is with a real person can be important. When you hide your identity it reflects a fear that your true voice cannot be heard. Sure, fear of retribution may be real, but speaking from behind the comfort of disguise dilutes the strength of arguments. The real you should present and defend.
That said, I try to establish some contact with people with whom I have discussions. Some, I already know, directly. Others, I know through other contacts. Others, I hope to know.
For that reason, it was nice to meet one of our politicians whose opinions are always interesting and who battles for acceptance of ideas and policies that deal with some of our glaring issues. I took the opportunity to ask her if she liked being a politicians, by which I meant that it offered to do things that she hoped to do. She did, but had a regret that she’d not found her voice till she was in opposition. We spent a short while talking and joking, with more than 140 characters at a time.
You can often make good points with few letters and numbers but brevity can easily dampen a point.
For that reason, it was good to meet one of Jamaica’s principal advocates and talk about a range of issues, including why we’d not descended into violent social upheaval, why the British hadn’t erased all traces of Spanish influence, and whether people would understand that garbage disposal and recycling is more than throeing things into gullies. On that latter point, it was helpful to hear about research into people’s perceptions and beliefs about what they needed to do, personally, to reduce the scourge of litter in Jamaica:
- How far are people prepared to walk with trash? Only a few feet, it seems, on foot. In a taxi? Not at all.
- Why dump into gullies? Isn’t that why they’re there?
- Government should clean public spaces, and pushing household waste there makes sense.
- Nature conquers all, and when rain clears the gullies, they’re clean. Job done!
Knowing your counterparts doesn’t mean you descend into mutual backslapping. But, it means you can disagree and not fear that you’ll descend into tussles that get resolved by being ‘ unliked’ or ‘blocked’. That relative safety is not trivial.