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Opinion

- Last year, after a few years of a pretty active life on Twitter, I left the platform for good.

Photo:

'We need social media systems built to enhance our shared humanity'
'We need social media systems built to enhance our shared humanity'

123RF

In the last eight or so months I have not had a single unproductive anxiety provoking or angry interaction with a person who I have never met. By any measure of human relationships this is a good one.

By the time I left the platform most days I was pulled between wanting to be part of interesting and relevant discussions and a grinding anxiety about the unpleasant exchanges that might occur.

There was, and still is, much that was expansive and nuanced on the platform. Despite that, I felt part of too many dehumanising and polarising connections. There was not enough that was positive and constructive, and there was little joy in it.

'We need social media systems built to enhance our shared humanity'
'We need social media systems built to enhance our shared humanity'

While it doesn't always work this way, it is how people have designed social media to operate.

To find our disagreement, what we can't understand in others and to amplify it. To allocate each of us to oppositional positions and develop our outrage about those positions.

On social media, it is our attention to things that make us angry, outraged and fearful that makes the most money for people who run it. Outrage and fear leads humans to arguing, to sharing content, to amplifying it. And it is this process that generates data about us that is then sold to those wanting to get their information to our newsfeed.

Social media companies have designed polarisation into the system. With polarisation comes a lack of spaciousness and generosity towards others' views, to finding common ground.

'We need social media systems built to enhance our shared humanity'
'We need social media systems built to enhance our shared humanity'

Recently, I became aware of the #BeanDad fiasco A thread on Twitter that caused such outrage that it spilled over into other social media spaces, blogs and the news (who would want to be THAT guy?).

In an unedifying series of 23 tweets a father told us how he had denied his hungry nine-year-old daughter baked beans for

'We need social media systems built to enhance our shared humanity'
'We need social media systems built to enhance our shared humanity'