I normally don't post commentary here as I try to stay neutral and behind the scenes. I have several goals in building this community - one of which is to help bridge the growing divide in society. My thought was if I could raise the view of non-believers in the eyes of religious people, it could help them humanize what they may perceived as bad people. That was one of my motivations in adding Humanism text here... to give us a shared vocabulary of "goodness".
As I expected, almost everyone who joined here was a good person who wanted to make the community a better place. However, I became disappointed in the way that the majority of members (who were left-leaning) treated the minority who are conservative in positions unrelated to religion. Before you say, "oh, they started it", please remember, I'm not picking sides but only observing that contempt is a dangerous thing - especially in groups of people. Many of our conservative non-believers have left in the last few months.
When couples are fighting, they often try therapy. The best predictor of divorce is whether or not the couple has contempt for each other. Make sense, as contempt can only build if the other person is dehumanized first. In society today, contempt has grown to a level unmatched since World War 2. Social media, which machine-learning algorithms optimize what people see by how effective the content is in creating outrage and contempt (as it increases revenue), is a major contributor to today's growing unrest.
This makes me think of how we can help improve things here. I realize that part of the fun many members have is jumping in a thread of some daily outrage posted by members who are tacitly encouraged to find the most outrage-inducing posts. It's a drug, pure and concentrated. While it was not our intention to become a pharmacy, we are.
It's more obvious when you scan the groups and imagine them as assorted drugs in a cabinet. Some come in extra-strength, 72-hour doses.
Aside from the normal admonishments of "hey, tone it down!", I want to help find another type of communication for members that is unrelated to a topic. I'm thinking of something like "hey, how are you doing?". Many sites have "status updates" where you can post temporary things that are at a single-human level instead of some external outrage at a 3rd person or group. It's hard to build contempt at another human being who is sharing their personal, intimate feelings. The weakness of status updates is that it only shows up to your friends and only if they're keeping an eye on you. I'm hoping that we could do better.
Here's what I'm thinking the "status update" feature would look like. On the main page, we put a tiny form for "How you feeling?" (or similar), it either opens a form or pops a small window for you to enter 120 characters or so. We then put that as a comment to a single post called, uh, "How you feeling?" and perhaps even display the last 10 or so on the main page. You are encouraged to reply KINDLY to these "comments" - even more than on any other posts. The member will get alerts when people reply to the status update.
What do you think? Are we on the right track? Other ideas?