Black and yellow warning sign attached to a fence. The sign that reads “Warning – Do not feed … [+] Trolls ”.


After just 10 years of using social media, it might be time to take stock of whether we have learned to communicate effectively with one another on these emerging platforms.

A reason for that? The trolls are out hunting parties on Twitter and the disinformation campaigns are running wild on Facebook.

I saw my first angry comment on Instagram the other day (which is surprising because most of the time I only post pictures of my book writing process).

In terms of the emotional intelligence I’ve seen from people expressing themselves using digital bits on social networks, we are in an infancy stage. To make things more civil, it takes more than a few emojis here and there.

What is often missing are actual emotional cues that signal to each other whether we have gone too far with a comment or a hurtful post.

I recently spoke to Ethan Kross, the author of Chatter: The Voice In Our Head, Why It Matters, And How To Use It. The book is about how we process the daily activities and experiences of life in our heads, adjust our responses, and (hopefully) calibrate what we say and do.

In our chat, Kross mentioned that social media in particular haven’t really addressed the problem of rumination and filtering when it comes to posting nasty grams to each other.

“What’s missing from social media is the cues that humanize the person we’re talking to,” he says. “It is much more difficult to lean in someone’s face and say something bad to them than on social media. We’re so far from it that it’s easier to express yourself without filtering. “

One example that I’ve been pondering has to do with the nuanced discussions I’ve seen. Over the past few months I’ve watched Facebook discussions quickly turn into attribution and exaggeration about the vaccines, and in some cases turned into a digital fistfight.

It’s easy to share a grin emoji or a sad face every now and then, but often it’s not nearly enough. We don’t see people react in real time and having quick access to our phones means we don’t think about how someone might feel from a comment reading it.

What Kross recommends is a stronger emphasis on the human element, especially now that we have so much data and a legacy of posts across all major portals.

He says we had thousands of years to learn, in his words, “how to profitably navigate the world offline. Perhaps now is the right time to use what you have learned and teach people how to navigate the online environment. “

This “socialization” of social media could include more verbal and visual cues.

“We can improve our reactions and become more sensitive to these interactions. We learn so much about social media that we are in a much better position than we were 10 years ago. We will learn more and become more refined, ”says Kross.

How could that work? Facebook offers some rudimentary tools that can be used to detect things like death threats or harsh attacks. I like how the new Kindli app does this. If you try to post something overly critical and rude, the app will block the post.

A next step could be to give users a perception rating. The platforms could analyze the tone and provide feedback on how the post or comment might be perceived based on a long history of previous discussions on social media.

Another idea: I like how the Checkmarq app requires you to share your actual passport or ID to prove who you are.

When people do this, they reveal part of their humanity. We’ve been thinking about what’s helpful in the real public space for thousands of years, but we’re in the Stone Age on social media. Further advice will certainly help.

“Social media didn’t learn the lessons [about emotional cues] yet. We don’t have the collective knowledge to navigate space. We’re only developing it now, ”he says. In my opinion, troll reform cannot come soon enough.