Fixing online discourse means starting from scratch

Fixing online discourse means starting from scratch

Repova, who worked in investment banking and consulting, founded the new social media platform Iris.

Everyone is aware of the fractured state of online discourse – people operating in echo chambers, misinformation spreading the social media space, endless arguments over basic facts, polarization reaching record highs, people hating others who disagree with them , cancel culture and many other issues that have been strengthened due to the existing social media platforms.

Despite the general recognition of social media’s immense problems, few have tried to solve them. Not surprisingly, going up against Facebook or Twitter is no small task and the chances of failure are – let’s be honest – close to 100 percent. But if we let fear rule us, how are we supposed to get out of this mess?

Many of my friends who are talented engineers and designers, public intellectuals and businessmen have tried to implement solutions within the existing platforms, namely Facebook. They started enthusiastically only to be shut down a few months later for reasons as ambiguous as “we’re refocusing our resources on more mission-critical projects.” It seems obvious that Facebook’s mission-critical projects were aimed at maximizing profit over public good. Its business model uses our attention and data to extract value, which is reflected in the flawed design of its products and services.

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Facebook has certainly stuck to its early motto of “move fast and break things,” where “things” have had various meanings over the years: “our mental health,” “way of life,” “work,” “connections,” “democracy .” ,” “political system” and many others.

Bad values ​​lead to bad business models which lead to bad design. It’s a chain reaction. The reality is that Facebook cannot change its design, which grabs people’s attention and makes them angrier and angrier, without changing its business model, which relies on high engagement to maximize profits. Nor can the company change its business model without changing its values ​​and finding the right balance between profits and the health of society and our political system.

Simply put, the damage is irreversible. Shareholders rely on the current business model, employees in positions of power endorse their values ​​and culture, and users’ negative perspective and mistrust of the brand cannot be repaired with a simple design change.

The solution is to start from scratch. It will be long, hard and painful, but I see no other way out of this.

So how do we do it?

Let’s start with the foundation of every company — its values. I started Iris (my new social platform) because I wanted to help improve our democracy through civil discourse with the goal of finding common ground and achieving social progress. This important part of our political system had disappeared and I wanted to get it back on track. I was also concerned about the degraded user experience. It’s honestly very difficult to get good conversations going. Having less than 100 followers on Twitter makes me look like a bot or a weirdo, and makes it difficult for me to have fruitful conversations with people who have different perspectives. There is no easy way to build my credibility. A new social platform must focus on users first and must work to optimize their experience and the quality of their interactions.

This is how we improve both the health of the political system and the health of the individuals within the system.

Targeted advertising is the evil of all evils. Yes, it makes a lot of money, but no, it does not align with our values. We have to find something else. The answer is in freemium – either a business-to-business or business-to-consumer model where you charge organizations or individual users a monthly fee for extra features. This allows the new platform to optimize for quality of conversations and user experience, not quantity of engagement.

Last but not least, the basic design of social platforms has not evolved in 20 years. It’s always the post and the comment sections, the following, the upvotes. Every Twitter or Facebook competitor copied its features down to the smallest detail. Are people too lazy to try new things? Are they afraid to innovate and fail many times before they find what works well?

I believe that to design a successful new platform, one must look at real interactions. Most of our conversations take place in small private groups. Whether you go to a networking event, dinner or a conference, you get together with four or five other people and have one private conversation. Sometimes you have public discussions in the form of panel events and interviews where experts share the best insights. Why doesn’t this happen online?

Imagine a new platform where anyone can participate in civil discussions and be heard. Imagine a platform where anyone can build relationships with the people in their discussion groups and discuss a topic at a much more granular level than in large public comment sections. Imagine a platform where the number of followers is not the determinant of credibility. If this sounds good to you, subscribe to Iris and see for yourself.

We do things differently. By mimicking the format of our real-life interactions, we can create an online space that is more civil, produces higher quality content, makes people more fulfilled and connected, and leads to a healthier society overall.

I look forward to seeing you on board.

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