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Big Revolution - Purging the poison

Welcome to Tuesday's Big Revolution. This morning I walked two miles in the snow. And now I've finish
January 22 · Issue #325 · View online
Big Revolution
Welcome to Tuesday’s Big Revolution. This morning I walked two miles in the snow. And now I’ve finished my newsletter, it’s all melted. Not even time to build a snowman…
By the way, if you’re in London next week and are interested in the topic of hiring and retaining talent for scaleup tech companies, please come along to this event I’m moderator for on January 31.

Big things you need to know today
  • Twitter has suspended an account that helped fuel controversy around an encounter between a Native American elder and a group of high school students wearing Make America Great Again hats. More on this below.
The big thought
CNN reports on the latest viral debate storming social media
Purging the poison
I’ve deliberately kept my distance from the whole ‘American high school kids in Make America Great Again hats face up to Native American elder’ storm, because it’s a total mess. But the fact it’s a total mess shows how the way social media has sped up the process of public debate – and perhaps ruined it in the process – isn’t going away any time soon.
The story has it all – a photo of a teenager in a MAGA hat, smugly smiling at a Native American, with all the racist history and present day tension that evokes in the USA; a bunch of conflicting accounts about the truth; enough grey areas that anyone can pick their side and double down – and that’s just the start. NYT Opinion’s new hire Charlie Warzel put it well on Twitter…
Charlie Warzel
this whole event — lightning fast reactions and amplification via the platforms, zapruder effect of having a whole bunch of emerging angles for ppl to latch their ideology onto, the possibility that a main amplifier might have been manipulating in bad faith. it’s a prefect storm
2:23 AM - 22 Jan 2019
As Warzel went on to add, “the whole long weekend seems like more proof that - just as humans - we are probably not meant to be connected in this way, at this speed!”
I don’t completely share this defeatist attitude. Lightning fast communication, lightning fast opinions, and then everyone moves on to the next big argument – that’s what we have right now. It’s not healthy, but you don’t have to look far to see how people react when technology serves them badly.
Teens hang out and chat in Fortnite (ostensibly an action game, not a chat room) because it’s the best place to meet their needs, people form private groups on messaging apps because they don’t want to converse on public social networks anymore, people abandon email because they find it more of a hindrance than a help to their lives… We build around the problems technology presents us with.
And there can be technical solutions, too. WhatsApp’s new limit on sharing links (see above) is an example of a sensible precaution against the messy, viral outbreaks of outrage that have got people killed in places like India.
So, I believe we as a species can solve the problem of ‘outrage at the speed of the internet.’ We need to learn how to behave in this new world, how to spot bad actors, how to just let some polarising issues go – they’re often just not that important that we need to get angry about every single one.
Maybe we’ll just get tired of all the outrage and become immune to the way social media accelerates arguments.
Don’t ask me for a complete answer right now (if I had one I’d be shopping around for a book deal!) but I’m certain that we can figure out how purge the poisonous aspects of social media from our collective bloodstream. All is not lost, for we are resourceful and tenacious humans.
Now, if only I had the same faith could apply these qualities to the threats of climate change…
One big read
A prolific scammer posing as different celebrities is flying Instagram influencers across the world in an elaborate scheme to steal their money A prolific scammer posing as different celebrities is flying Instagram influencers across the world in an elaborate scheme to steal their money
It’s not just fiascos like the Fyre festival that Instagram influencers have to keep an eye out for.
That’s all for today...
See you in your inbox again tomorrow.
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