dark sides of social media

Ian McCarthy’s paper and slide presentation on the honeycomb of social media was part of my inspiration for creating the seven facets of enterprise sensemaking. This video explains my problem-solving process in detail. The image below is the most current version, as it has been modified since 2013.

The initial research by McCarthy and his colleagues in 2011 revealed seven building blocks of social media and provided a way to look at any medium/platform to see what it enhanced/amplified. In a recent follow-up paper, the authors have examined the dark sides of social media, relying mostly on examples from the popular press as there has been little serious academic examination of the subject.

Image: from Twitter by Ian P. McCarthy

Here is a quick synopsis of the dark sides of the 7 major social media building blocks from
Social media? It’s serious! Understanding the dark side of social media
by Christian V. Baccarella, Timm F. Wagner, Jan H. Kietzmann, Ian P. McCarthy
in the European Management Journal

  1. Conversations: “excessive, aggressive, and inaccurate engagement can occur”
  2. Sharing: “content can be inappropriate and undesirable or that it can be shared without permission from the holder of any intellectual property rights”
  3. Location: “location and availability of users are known and can be tracked without their awareness or consent”
  4. Relationships: “social media help to establish and reveal relationships, they enable different types of social engagement and related deleterious consequences. This includes cyberbullying, stalking, and online harassment”
  5. Reputation: “sharing inappropriate content, which can destroy the sharer’s reputation and/or the reputations of others”
  6. Groups: “people not only exclude others from conversations or group membership but also lose empathy for them”
  7. Identity: “social media users are not in control of their own identity any longer, thus leading to all sorts of privacy and safety risks”

The authors note that enterprise systems are not immune from these dark sides.

“Enterprise social media platforms (e.g., Microsoft’s Yammer, Salesforce’s Chatter, or the collaboration tool Slack) are developed and deployed specifically to connect colleagues. However, despite the many knowledge management advantages these tools offer, they are not immune to these interpersonal ills either.”

This is why I promote a comprehensive understanding of the various effects of media, from several perspectives, using tools like —  Marshall McLuhan’s media tetrad, combined with the enterprise knowledge-sharing facets, as well as individual sense-making skills of personal knowledge mastery. The only way we can address the dark sides of any of these technologies is to collectively understand them. Perhaps your organization would like to get some actionable insights on social media for learning and working.

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