If there’s a platform that is blatantly agnostic to every form of diversity, it is the Internet. Manifested through its most prominent offspring, Social Media, cyberspace is like Lady Justice: aloof, attractive, blindfolded and holding a balanced weighing scale.
A hodge-podge of madly varying text, pictures, videos…Social Media is all about people communicating. Sometimes with one another, other times with everyone in general and, often, with no one in particular! If something resonates, it goes viral. Else it lies dormant – marking time.
The Internet is a publicity-privacy partnership offering complete freedom of expression, to comment – or criticize – with the choice of anonymity. A virtual platform where people can evangelize, or defy, any of the tenets of real-world society. And nobody has to agree, or disagree, with what’s out there. If they ‘like’ it, great! If not, well, too bad.
From the Internet emerges the biggest gift humankind could have ever received: Diversity. Of word and thought. Of gender, ability and orientation. Of geography and nationality. These, and other, ‘Made By Humankind’ demarcations become nebulous, flat and generally immaterial. What matters is the word, the visual – and the moniker (which may not necessarily be a name!).
Like the Starship Enterprise, online opinion boldly goes where no one (ahem! notice the political correctness, please) has gone before – at the speed of thought! Opening all the closets, so the whole world gets to know. Actually, no one knows the real ‘who’. In cyberspace, there is space for everyone!
#Social@digital has some fundamental characteristics, many of which are evident in the real world, and the workplace:
- The Internet is emotionless (Mr. Spock would be so pleased!): Okay, emoticons may help infuse some sort of human element into bare-bone text. Yet, it’s all about saying it the way it is. Caution: Be aware of the choice of words. Readers have been known to misinterpret the most innocent of messages – because they’re having a bad hair day…
- The online profile is the final frontier: No one questions the stated profile – unless incongruities with the traditional stereotype begin showing up. Alter-identities are acceptable too – everyone knows that! If that’s what a person wants to be, so be it…! What you share is who you are.
- All contributions have ‘value’: Every contribution gets its due: Positive, negative or neutral. This encourages personal marketing and branding, with benefits for quality, while errors invite severe criticism and possibly a cyber-boycott.
- What is written, stays…somewhere, forever: Cyberspace is one huge repository. While it makes for a good archive, everything written can and will be used – for or against the writer. Immediately or anytime in the future. The Internet demands a very different, level of ownership.
- Viral – not necessarily good: When an opinion goes ‘walkabout’ it’s not necessarily a good thing. Okay, the wish for fame and acclaim is a strong reason for expression. People do become popular and famous – for reasons good and not so good. So be careful what you wish for…
Let’s list a few lessons in diversity that the Internet is offering us for free. A sort of MOOC (Massively Open Online Course) on ‘How To Be Diversity Agnostic’. Here are the topics it covers:
- Stereotypes are subsets of Diversity: Valuing people for what they contribute, not who or what they are or represent
- Communication sans emotional misguidance: Keeping emotion, and specially sarcasm, out of communications. Say things like they are.
- Contributing thoughtfully but relentlessly: Keeping the creative juices constantly flowing. Valuable contributions are always valued. But it takes practice.
- Saying what you mean and meaning what you say: Being convincing or being convinced otherwise – that’s maturity.
No, this isn’t about how to write effective emails, or posting on Social Media sites. Not even about what words to use or which selfies, graphs or graphics to put up.
It’s a bigger discussion than that! It’s about understanding our great gift. We humans create these great silos of diversity. But Cyberspace, and all it’s progeny, considers diversity a given – and an enabler that adds perspective and a wide range of flavours!
The great poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote:
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls…
Cyberspace is hardly heaven. Yet, diversity on the Internet is more about converging shared knowledge, personal opinion, expression, and less about gender, nationality, colour, race, or orientation. These narrow domestic walls that fragment the real world are being broken. Surely that’s evident.
Or is this still an idea way, way ahead of its time?
Disclaimer: This is a contributed post. The statements, opinions and data contained are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of People Matters and the editor(s).