Student feed on the UIndy app breeds toxicity, affects community at large

Nowhere have rising social media tensions been more evident to our college community than the UIndy App student feed. Appropriate digital etiquette is more important now than ever, given the increase in remote communication because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the public discourse surrounding the election, civil rights and other topics. Demonstrating respect in online activities is integral to good citizenship and being a member of the campus community. 

Open dialogue and respectful discourse are already difficult to achieve on social media compared to in-person conversation. For instance, when communicating through comment sections and group chats, the tone of a message can be ambiguous and hard to read since it can lack the context of verbal or facial cues. Many people like to joke or speak sarcastically in these forums, and the inability to read tone weakens communication. People may also use terms others interpret differently. Unlike real-life conversations, in which people can clarify definitions instantly, accomplishing this on social media is difficult. Instead, miscommunication often will occur and result in arguments forming before one can correct themselves. All of these factors make effective virtual discourse easy to mess up.

Communication barriers apply to all social media, but there is a crucial difference with the UIndy App student feed. While it can still affect your life, arguing on Twitter may not affect you in the long-term simply because Joe from Iowa is a stranger and far away. However, with the UIndy App, you may see those student users in class or on campus. So some of the anonymity characteristic of most social networks is gone, and toxic behavior can have a more lasting impact on campus relationships because the people involved are frequently around each other. 

Therefore, it is crucial to approach virtual interactions on the student feed with the same respect as in-person interactions. It is one thing to publicly ask a question or voice a thought, perhaps about sensitive subjects such as politics or race relations, but making tactless, blanket statements to spark arguments and controversy is as inappropriate on the UIndy App student feed as it is in-person.

Social media is just as much a public forum as face-to-face conversation and requires just as much care, if not more. This is especially true for the UIndy App student feed, since its users are all a part of the same general population. We must be mindful of our words, not only as good citizens but as members of a campus community.

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