The laundry list of what we don’t want from social media platforms and big tech companies seems to grow by the hour: No more invasive surveillance, selling our data, using our data to psychologically profile and then manipulate us, amplifying hate, extremism and misinformation, making opaque and questionable judgements about online conversation, and on and on and on.
But what about what we do want? What benefits are there to social media that we can focus on preserving? For all the problems with social media, and there are many, at its root it’s nothing more than an online place of community. So what do you want in your community?
There’s no one right answer to what your personal wants and needs from your online community are, just as there’s no one right place for everyone to live, work or gather with friends. The things that make you feel welcome, safe, included, empowered and connected may not be the same as they are for others. (This begs the questions — do we need a few large, ultra-connected platforms governed by general consensus, or would we do better to have a large network of smaller, interconnected and interoperable platforms?)
The possibilities for the future of social media are near limitless when we stop thinking about what is and start thinking about what could be. Perhaps a data and psychological profile that you yourself own and decide when, where and how it’s used. Or perhaps an online identity with virtually no cache of data at all. Maybe an online space where talk of politics and religion is prohibited, or maybe a space where they’re passionately and intelligently debated. Maybe your online community is where you go to find like-minded people to connect with, or perhaps it’s where you go to expand your world and connect with people who are different.
Don’t limit yourself to thinking only about what is — let yourself imagine what digital communities would look like if they could be anything at all. Now tell us, what do you want?