What is the mos effective way to combat negative online presences?

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anonymous_stub (not verified)

December 31, 1969

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fishstarktpi (not verified)

December 31, 1969

Hey @Operationstandup! I'm glad you're working on this topic -- it's SO important, and it's something that too often goes unaddressed. We spend so much time on the internet every day, and the norms and rules for our behavior there aren't as clear as they are in interpersonal conversations. As a result, online spaces can become unsafe really easily. The good news is that people like you are willing to work on it!

Obviously it should go without saying that any content should immediately be reported, both to the online media platform and school authorities, if:
<ul>
<li>the poster threatens harm to themselves or others</li>
<li>it contains hate speech</li>
<li>it constitutes harassment or bullying</li>
</ul>
But of course, the problem is that these issues are never black-and-white. Most negative online content, even though it can hurt or ostracize people, is rarely expressed in a way that clearly constitutes bullying. Most people who perpetuate negative patterns of communication online probably don't even know that they're doing it! So the question is -- how do we identify, name, and correct these negative patterns when they so often fly under the radar?

Here are a few things I'd consider when tackling this issue:

(1) <strong>Brainstorm! </strong>Figure out what positive -- and negative -- online presences look like. Negative online behavior is far deeper -- and far more subtle -- than the clear-cut cyberbullying you might see in PSAs. What kind of communication makes people feel uncomfortable, attacked, or alienated online? Conversely, what are ways people use social media platforms for good? Try to come up with some detailed lists, the more specific the better!

(2) <strong>Organize! </strong>If what you're trying to do is spark a change in the way people in your community communicate, it's something that you can't do alone. Reach out to people -- ideally people outside, as well as within, your circle of friends, especially people with high levels of 'social capital' (folks who are trusted, respected, and have a lot of social media clout) -- and tell them what you're trying to do, why it matters, and the specific goals you're trying to achieve.

(3) <strong>Model! </strong>I've always found that, if you want to change negative patterns of action, you get far better results by <em>showing</em> people what <em>to do</em> than you can by <em>telling </em>them what <em>not to do</em>. Once you have your team together, work with them to cultivate online presences that reflect all of the positive ways you can use social media! You might even consider launching an online effort to spread positive vibes online in your school community -- "compliments" pages at some schools have gained a lot of traction!

(4) <strong>Callout! </strong>But just as you want to spread the positive, you still want to directly address the negative -- especially for people who don't know that the content they're spreading may be harmful. Once you have a specific list of negative behaviors that make people feel unsafe online, you and your team may want to take direct action and call them out. "Callout culture," like anything else, has pros and cons, risks and benefits. You want to approach someone from a place of compassion and care, you want to avoid shaming or aggressive behavior, and you want to keep in mind that online confrontations can sometimes escalate and have real-world consequences. (Peace First has a great tool online to help figure out issues of safety with your work.) At the same time, the only way people will know their behavior is wrong is if you tell them, and I've seen call-outs prompt people to change their behavior on social media quite often.

(5) <strong>Teach! </strong>Throughout this work, you'll collect a lot of insights about what helps people feel safe -- and what makes them feel unsafe -- online. You should consider compiling these insights into a short workshop, and finding venues (assemblies, classrooms, community groups) where you can teach your peers about what it means to have a positive online presence -- and how they can avoid hurting others, even inadvertently,  online.

Just a few ideas that might get you started!

@PFStaff, is Jeremiah on here? He has some pretty direct experience with creating positive online communities within schools.
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tammypf (not verified)

December 31, 1969

Thanks for responding!  I'm checking on Jeremiah.
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tammypf (not verified)

December 31, 1969

Hello Operation Stand Up - just checking in to see how putting together your project plan is coming along?  Do you need any support or suggestions?