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Overcoming Negativity: How PR can shape the nature of online discourse

Amit Misra
, Thu, 03/15/2018

Communication professionals have a big role to play in driving a shift in the tone of public discourse away from cynicism and discourtesy towards a culture of openness and respect.

- Amit Misra, CEO, MSL in India

Access. Anonymity. Activism. These components have rapidly become the determinants of virality in an increasingly fragmented online space. Personal attacks are the norm for any issue of contention, especially when it is related to politics or pop culture. In fact, while the ubiquity of the open web continues to be heralded as our greatest achievement yet, sentiment towards the quality of online conversation continues to decline. There’s enough proof that the world we live in is more connected but less engaged.

“Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution.” - Albert Einstein

Negative online chatter can follow you everywhere. While personalisation and targeting have created echo chambers, a culture of cynicism pervades virtually every topic of online discourse. Make your way through to the bottom of any comments thread and you’ll see what I mean. In my view, this is because individual empowerment, when aggregated, can look ugly from the outside in; diverse objectives combined with rigid perspectives do lead to conflict and, in worse cases, aggression. Uncontrolled, this aggression can turn into collective hatred that very often undermines the issue at hand.

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