What If Social Media Could Make Us Nicer People?

What if comment section posts could change the way we view and treat each other? What if we could see each others' true nature as we hide behind our computer screens - even when a real name is attached.

You read newspaper, editorial, Buzzfeed 'Comments' sections and people are seething! They are destroying each other in Comments sections, saying vulgar, nasty, hateful things about any hot button issue: race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, immigration, abortion. The list goes on. People calling each other ignorant names and spewing vulgar hate that I could have never fathomed.

But what would happen if your personal network could see all of that?

What if these comments were brought to the top of Facebook; If Facebook were to change their Newsfeed API to increase posts displaying "Comments by Friends" in your Newsfeed? Steve*-the-Ignoramous posts a racial slur on a Huffington Post article, and 20% of his personal network sees it. What would happen then?

Think of your new-found perspective of a Facebook friend after you view a comment they made telling a group of random individuals to go f*** themselves. Who would this person be - A colleague? A friend? A relative? Spewing hate out into the world.

I understand that users making these extreme, indecent comments are a small percentage of the Facebook population - and thank god for that. But if this shift in exposure occurred, think of the recourse; These people would be completely undignified after such a spectacle. 
And then it would stop. After watching others be publicly shamed on social media, those who remain would no longer follow suit.

The hate and the lewd remarks and the disrespect we see in so many social media discussions would decrease exponentially. Users would be inclined to exercise diplomacy in an argument as opposed to running their mouths. And we might just be nicer to one another - at least in the digital sphere. Who knows - maybe that could even seep out into society making us just slightly, moderately, nicer people.

But could we track it? Could we track increases in niceness within social media? Absolutely!

The world has an array of social media listening tools: Radian6, NUVI, Sysomos, there's a whole whack of them. These social listening tools include "Sentiment Analysis", which allows them to identify keywords and phrases that have positive  or negative associations. These tools are crucial to the marketing and advertising industry as they measure brand performance and general public sentiment. So why not take the same practice we use to measure brand performance and leverage it against general society? Take our 'Nice vs Mean' reading now, increase the views of "Comments by Friends" on Facebook, and see if the 'Mean' reading indeed does go down.

It would certainly be an interesting experiment; to see if comment exposure, subsequent consequence, and rebalance would eventually occur. And if so, could social media actually make us nicer people?

I say we bring it to Facebook, and put them to the challenge.

*I know many Steves, all of whom are lovely.