By David Ryan Polgar, co-founder + Trust & Safety @ Friendbase
Last night I was walking through the streets of Manhattan and never once felt unsafe. If you lived in NYC in the seventies through late nineties, this would not have been the case. If you need a refresher, just watch a movie from the eighties that shows a crime-ridden city in decay.
Because of civic engagement and implemented policies, New York City is now one of the safest cities in the world, buzzing with activity and record-breaking tourism. The environment has significantly changed for the better over the years. So why not the same level of improvement for our online environments?
We appear to be at a crossroads with online behavior in general, and specifically with actions on major social media platforms, games, and online worlds. We have seen both the great promise of the web — global connections, endless entertainment, the spreading of democracy, instantly-accessible information. But we have also seen it’s peril — the spreading of hate, misinformation, and public shaming. As a society, much of our initial optimism towards the web as the great uniting fabric has been eroded. To keep the NYC metaphor, a once-shining city has devolved with litter, muggings, and distrust among neighbors.
It is time to unite as digital citizens.
“Social media is like a knife: it can be used to inflict pain or tear apart Truth. But it can also be used to carve out a future that is more connected, more socially just, and more civically-engaged.”
In order to improve our online environments, we need to stop thinking of people online as “users.” That implies a one-way street. Instead, we need to transition into digital citizens that are educated, empowered, and engaged. We need to promote digital citizenship. It’s an issue I am committed to as a Tech Ethicist (exploring the ethical, legal, and emotional impact of social media & tech), and someone that needs to be embraced by more kids, teens, parents, and everyone in between.
In a very welcome and needed development, the Obama Foundation has just announced their commitment towards digital citizenship, and is looking to have a fluid conversation about ways to improve the web and also what it means to be a digital citizen (#DigitalCitizen). There could be no more important issue, really. Our very ideals of democracy are dependent on the open spreading of truthful ideas and an actively-engaged citizenry.
Let’s make our “digital city” safer and more vibrant. It’s starts with YOU.