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Accident and Casualty Reduction in an Unlicensed and Unregulated Activity: Social Media



The advent of the automobile brought dramatic advances in our capabilities around travel and mobility. Over time, the affordability, reliability, capabilities and infrastructure would develop such that its use spread from a select group of adventurous pioneers to the everyday lives of average individuals, including young adults. Over time, rules, regulations, laws, etiquette, licenses, mandatory training and government oversight bodies would develop to improve coordinated usage and increase the safety of drivers, passengers, pedestrians and the public at large.


Similarly the advent of the internet has brought dramatic advances in our capabilities around communication. Over the last decade, this has been led by the rise of social media platforms and applications as well as the increasing affordability of computers and the prolific spread of hand held devices.


What have not kept pace are the societal operating agreements, oversight and training. There are no licensing requirements and government oversight has been limited to very select niches. At the same time, there has been a decline in the sense of ethics and personal responsibility in society in recent generations. Casualties, such as the tragedy at Rutgers recently, highlight the potential impact of misuse. I suspect injuries are widespread and occurring on a daily basis. Reporting, however, is rarely made and not systematically tracked. On balance, we currently have a void, in managing this risk to public safety.


So what can realistically be done to manage this risk without significantly curtailing the benefits spreading use of social media brings? Legal regulation and licensing is currently infeasible as well as undesirable. Educational institutions are somewhat constrained in what they can require as well as teach in this area.


Conveying societal expectations around behavior may be one option, however it would need to be from groups or parts of society which the individual is influenced by in order to have impact. It would need to create a personal sense of responsibility or at least a sense that they will be held personally responsible for their behavior and the consequences are expected (by the individual) to be significant enough as to modify their behavior. Self policing
is likely to be needed for this to be effective. Thus a common belief in the norms and the importance of them would need to be developed in the groups that matter to the individual.


What might this common belief look like or be? Defining and spelling out a widely accepted (or acceptable) set of beliefs may be more difficult than it sounds. How might this belief be brought into common acceptance and expectation by a significant density of users such that self policing would be effective?


Think about it and let’s chat: Monday, Nov 1st, at 12:30 P.M. EST. The twitter hashtag for this is #SMCEDU.


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