Quite a subject, I know, so please let me explain my feelings.
There’s a news story that “Facebook admits it poses mental health risk”
The story includes a previously reported comment from an ex-Facebook executive saying: “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth.” In my opinion this applies directly to OSM provided resources, specifically the mailing lists.
Now, people will say straightaway “I’m not on Social Media, I don’t do it; I’ve done emails since before you were born. Facebook is stupid and listserv is how we do it”. The point is, many OSM provided services, including the mail lists, are, for all intents and purposes, Social Media. People are using the OSM services for the same dopamine hit that they use other forms of Social Media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. The difference is we don’t share photos of our lunch on the mailing lists. The end result, however, is the same; No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth.
I am a long term subscriber to 3 OSM mailing lists (talk, since 2009, I think; HOT since day 1; OSMF-talk since 2012) and all three have recently been dominated by a very small group of people engaging in the short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops described above. There have been examples of racism, bullying, harassment, as well as a number of conspiracy theories and statements made that are bizarre to the point that they have to be outright questioned to make sure we’re all reading the same words. Engaging with these comments only provides an opportunity for another instant dopamine hit, or opens the door for others to engage in the same behaviour. I am unwilling to post any links to demonstrate this; it shouldn’t be too hard to think of recent examples.
OSM provided resources are currently unsafe: To the majority of users they provide an opportunity to be harassed or abused; the mailing lists are unwelcoming, nonconstructive and noisy. To a small number of users, the mailing lists are a place to develop a dangerous feedback loop of inappropriate behaviour. I can’t see anyone currently doing well from being a mailing list subscriber.
My early New Year’s Resolution is to ask two questions of anything I post to an OSM provided mailing list: Am I encouraging others? If I’m describing a perceived problem, can I propose a solution?
So then, to finish asking for help; if the above is accurate, can we improve this situation? What can the individual do to help?