Context collapse on social media

From Charlie Wazel:

“The whole affair is a perfect example of context collapse, which generally occurs when a surfeit of different audiences occupy the same space, and a piece of information intended for one audience finds its way to another — usually an uncharitable one — which then reads said information in the worst possible faith.”

“It’s Not Cancel Culture — It’s A Platform Failure.”

Context collapse is one of my biggest issues with wide-open social media platforms like Twitter. It’s very, very easy to take a grain from the feed and blow it up.

The guardrails that usually keep these things in check in smaller groups — a tighter audience, established relationships with other members, moderation — aren’t present.

Add recommendation engines driven by machine learning algorithms and you’ve got yourself a perfect recipe for yelling at strangers on the internet.

“The ability to switch contexts with little friction on Twitter is part of what can make the entire experience feel spontaneous and exciting. It’s how you get celebrities interacting with random nerds. Fun! It’s also how a lot of vile harassment happens.”

…and that’s the problem. We look to the upsides of a feature — discovery, engagement, retention — and don’t consider the fallout until after it happens. Even then, I wonder how much of it is dismissed as collateral damage, just an unfortunate cost of doing business?

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