What makes some types of social media a place where people feel they can attack other users, asks Jim Duffy.
‘Do you want a square go?”
These are words I recall from my school days.
One boy – yes, it was always us boys – would ask another for a fight.
It could be over a girl that they both fancied in the class or a bad tackle playing football in the lunch break. For many at my school, it was just plain bullying of outliers or those who were a bit different.
Recently, we saw this square go mentality as my namesake – Jim Duffy the Greenock Morton football manger – allegedly had a pop at Hibs gaffer Neil Lennon on the touchline and the term ‘square go’ was, or was not, mentioned – nonetheless it was all over the papers.
So, it would appear that ‘square go’ is alive and, well, kicking! Let’s look at your options when challenged for a square go.
Well, you can politely decline.
I said “no” to a few, as I didn’t fancy getting my head kicked in on that particular day. This leaves the challenger with two options: either he goes ahead and delivers the beating because he is angry, mad or malicious; or he can take the view that he has won because you have ‘bottled it’. He will probably then tell lots of people you are a big fearty and you will have to suffer the humility of defeat.
The ramifications of this can be far and wide.
As you have declined the fight, others may then feel you are weak and think they can have a go.
This then leads to other problems for you as all comers move in you and you then have to go underground or stand and fight one of them. But what happens when someone asks you for the metaphorical square go on Twitter?
Twitter is one these crazy mediums that, for some reason, others feel they can personally attack you with a ‘square go’ mentality. Let’s look at this more closely. Let’s compare and contrast Twitter with other social media sites.
Facebook first. I have my Facebook friends. The fact that they are ‘friends’ immediately creates a bond and when I post something, I usually get some likes and decent comments. I don’t really expect to be attacked or challenged to a fight on my Facebook account.
It feels very personal to me and I, in turn, like my Facebook chums. I like to see their family snaps and selfies and I wouldn’t dream of having a go at them. It just wouldn’t make sense.
Then I have my LinkedIn account.
Now, LinkedIn has a certain etiquette about it. It feels a bit more professional and business-like. It feels that people who want to link in with me have a certain respect for what I do or say and they believe that, together, we will at some stage be able to help or assist each other.
The quality of the discussion and posts is usually good and it’s great to get informed perspectives on areas I am interested in like entrepreneurship, startups, investment and leadership. It’s a safe space. Again, here I just do not expect to get attacked, nor would I go on the offensive to give someone a hard time.Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen some very robust discussions, but not to the extent that a square go is required. I like the decorum and it is and should be a selfie-free zone.
But, Twitter has been adopted for some reason as the social media platform where metaphorical square goes are okay and, horrifyingly, are commonplace.
So, why is it that total strangers feel they can attack others in Twitter?
Yes, yes you’re going to tell me that people like President Trump use it for debate and argument and confrontation and conflict… and that most certainly doesn’t help. But is that not really where my point lies? There is no social contract between me and any of my followers on Twitter.
I can openly ask anyone for a square go and vice versa. Twitter prides itself on its brevity and permitting the user only 140 characters to play with on each tweet – albeit emojis and photos don’t count of course. But the anger, frustration and bile that can be generated within these characters differentiates Twitter from other social media platforms as far as I can see.
I currently have over 12,000 followers on Twitter. I tweet out a positive tweet almost every day that I feel will either motivate or inspire others to think and act differently.
But I’m not sure if I asked anyone for help on Twitter whether I would get any response from my followers or lurkers, who simply follow people on Twitter.
Wouldn’t that be an interesting exercise? Post on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook something like: ‘Folks, I really, really need some help just now with life. Can you help me?’
I bet my bottom dollar I’d get tons of support on Facebook and LinkedIn but almost nothing on Twitter.
Handling requests for square goes on Twitter is another art form and one that social media consultants have more expertise in than I have.
But for now, it’s just the fact that Twitter users feel they can blatantly attack you and get away with being nasty that makes me wonder what value it has in society.
I wonder if there is the opportunity here for a new tech entrepreneur to create a new, more positive Twitter-style platform, where square goes are banned and open friends are encouraged?