Tuesday 26 April 2022

Opinion: Who owns the public conversation?

My view is gone

One thing I dread about social media spaces I do not control is the loss of views, opinions, replies, or comments I have posted to status initiated by others. You cannot control how others moderate their spaces whether they decide to edit, delete, or hide what you at one time publicly contributed to.

Obviously, one does not want to make a habit of journaling every comment posted, but the danger is there that if you contribute something substantial, you first have no control over the situation and might well lose it when you return to check if others have contributed, validated, or repudiated your comment, only to find that the whole post with the original thread has gone.

Who owns the public conversation?

I first became aware of this risk some years ago after a contribution to a post on Facebook that was soon deleted, there have been several instances of lost responses on Twitter, only yesterday, I was somewhat bereft when a show of support towards a broken relationship by relating my own personal experience was gone, the whole thing with the almost 200 comments attached.

It is very well the prerogative of any person to decide on what to post, entertain commentary, moderate participation, and consequently remove that post if they are so inclined. However, the question becomes when you have made a view public and people have contributed, in comments, views and responses, are you now the sole proprietor of that public commons to do as you wish without recourse to others who have engaged?

Again, this is not to remove autonomy or agency from the individual owners of social media spaces, if I have attended a party at someone’s place, the person can politely ask me to leave, however, what is indisputable is I attended regardless of what evolved at the party. Unfortunately, that imitation of life in social media is not readily present.

At the mercy of

The original poster might remove a posting and put a placeholder in its place indicating why the posts and comments were removed, but that would be an extended view of courtesy rather than a strict requirement. Then, thinking about this, there is the possibility that conversation landscape is reduced out of the fear of the possible loss of one’s voice in an engagement that we choose not to contribute substantially apart from post easy platitudes.

Alternatively, we keep a record of everything we have posted or offer a broader commentary in our owned spaces with a link in the comments where we would have posted to people to read our views. Obviously, if the original post is deleted, we still have our opinions intact, even if the apparent context and setting for that comment is lost. My reticence is triggered, I might well be less forward in contributing to other spaces.

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