Social Media, Hate and Us

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This isn’t the blog I intended to write this week, but on Friday we heard the terrible news of the terrorist attack on a mosque in New Zealand and, once more, the role of social media in our society was brought to the fore with the absolutely appalling news that the massacre was being live streamed on Facebook. 

It was a new low for social media. 

When the now largely forgotten Friends Reunited was launched, just 18 years ago, it seemed like a great idea – reconnecting people who’d lost touch over the years. 

Since then there’s been a social media explosion and its growth and commercial success has exposed a darker side of both social media and, sadly, humanity. 

One problem is that a lot of our information now comes from services like Facebook and Twitter, with few people checking the accuracy of what is shared. The extent of this problem was illustrated when Conservative MP, Esther McVey, retweeted a claim last week that we’d have to adopt the Euro in 2020 if we stayed in the EU – which is absolutely untrue. If our elected MPs can no longer identify truth from lies, what hope do the rest of us have? 

Another problem is that we are increasingly living in a soundbite culture, something encouraged by, for example, the character limit on Twitter. 

Fake news (often shared in ignorance, sometimes not) and a soundbite culture have, I believe, propagated and nurtured a new and dangerous form of tribalism. If we block those who oppose us and share posts that confirm our beliefs, as many do, we can expect to find ourselves living in virtual sycophantic bubbles where our views, however extreme, are affirmed as right. 

What has this got to do with us as business trainers?
I don’t have all the answers. But I suspect there is a need for social media use to be included in equal opportunities training along with an awareness of how to use fact checking services, always bearing in mind that employees’ use of social media carries reputational risks for the organisations they work for. 

Aside from this, I believe many organisations need to do more to ensure they are truly inclusive. And we need to ensure that time is provided for teams to learn more about their strengths and what unites them. 

I touched on this a couple of weeks ago at our first Discovery Day when I suggested that too much equal opportunities training has been ‘tick box’ training, telling people what they can or can’t say; what they should or shouldn’t do. This approach risks simply covering prejudice with nice gloss of political correctness, without ever tackling underlying issues or beliefs and without, most importantly, building understanding and consensus.

I’m proud of the work we’ve done through Trainers’ Library to encourage people to examine prejudice and to encourage togetherness, and it means a lot to me personally that Witches of Glum (available free from Trainers' Library) has been publicly endorsed by Show Racism the Red Card

Equal opportunities and diversity in organisations is, for me, about teamwork; it’s about overcoming prejudice and hate and about everyone coming together to achieve more. This not only makes commercial sense; it makes moral sense. 

Please let us know if there is more that you think we can do to help.

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