I've discussed before on other blogs, how it's been known since the 70s that computer mediated communication lowers empathy and the ways to tackle that are somewhat common sense.
Here, I am going to suggest features that humanize people on the internet, and could make Minds a more mature and well conceived social media platform than any other.
Basically the whole idea here, is to make online life, more like real life; closer to the way humans normally interact. This is one of the primary problems of modern humanity; we fail to recognize that our evolved social mechanisms work better that bureaucratic systems.
In the case of social media, it's not the moderating systems that are at fault, it's the medium itself. There is a gigantic body of science on this topic.
We already have some voice and video chat integrated into Minds via gatherings, and that honestly is a great start. Genuinely. It's well known within psychology that seeing and hearing people increases empathy. It's social feedback. We need to get video in the messenger system as well, as was planned. Ideally Minds needs to host this stuff themselves, so they can fully control it's functionality.
I think anonymity is appreciated, so as with later suggestions I'm going to suggest some voice altering, and voice masking features. (Which also could be for fun).
I'd like to see an option to post audio, on one's feed or page, like a text post. Minds could use Microsoft API's to auto-translate their existing many languages into text, so that the post shows as both text, and voice.
The user could make corrections to the auto text before posting. I suggest Microsoft's translation API, because it's pre-existing and works well, and I suspect a text translation software might be a little complex at first for developers, in order to gain this feature.
As discussed before voice, and video both offer emotional cues to people, that increase empathy. To simply have to option of hearing a short micro-podcast or audio micro-blog, maybe 10-15 seconds long, and get the users voice, and tone, will humanize the feed.
This also has the advantage of potentially being easier for users where typing is harder, and making the site more disability friendly. The text translation would make it optional to play the audio. Could simply be a microphone icon on the new post UI. Could also have this option in messenger.
I don't think a feature like this has been properly implemented anywhere. There are similar options elsewhere, but no 'dual format' with both text and audio, and thus it's had limited take up.
A great deal of the modern internet revolves around making jokes, being ironic, and generally not being serious. More so than life. This is facilitated by the lack of real tone, and the subsequent lowering of empathy. Emoji's IMO contribute to this; they are cartoonish, and poorly convey serious emotion, or indeed subtle emotion.
A more sophisticated emoji system that conveys a) more subtle emotions and b) more human faces and c) animation, might help better convey real, genuine emotion. Of course it would also better convey jokes, because rather than using strings of emoji's, you could select the appropriate facial expression.
I'm not exactly sure how this animated expression set would look, or how it would be displayed, but I am convinced that even in an all text format, a better emoji system could increase humanity online. Even a GIF set, works better than cartoons IMO. It's hard to know how this would work, because it's basically untried online, and untested in science.
But I think in combination with the rest of the feature selections, a slightly more 'high resolution' emoji may help.
Another factor that is shown to increase pro-social behavior in computer mediated contexts is communities with cultures that encourage them. Punishments, via banning, instituted at a site level, are a poor substitute for real social climates, where everything is verbally permitted, but not necessarily well received! So two features here would help.
The first is groups that mirror real world locations, that could be suggested to the user to join (perhaps opt in, to preserve anonymity), along with personal interests. Groups that in some way mirror the real world, will take culture from those real world groupings. Wherever groupings can have their own culture, whether made online, or mirrored from the real world, that's an opportunity to build a pro-social one.
The second part of this 'reinforcing culture', to imitate the real world, is the notion of social reward for pro-social behavior. Tokens currently exist as a way to reward creators. I propose that it could also be written in to central documentation that it also be used as a way to say thank you, or well done, when it comes to being helpful, or being civil. As a sort of 'social tip', especially in groups, for people who de-escalate, phrase things politely, or offer help to people that need help.
I've only partly thought this last part out, like the emoji idea, and likely there are more organic ways to implement social reward or 'positive feedback for pro social behavior, but this element is largely missing from anonymous large scale contexts like cities or social media. Down votes and reacts don't do it.
I will however caution this idea because systematizing natural social interaction is a common flaw of modern society. Some thought I think is needed to make anything like this more 'life-like'. If nothing else this last idea could be abandoned.
If all that was changed was simply more video, and voice audio on this site, it would make Minds vastly more mature as a genuinely 'social', social network compared to others.
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