"Sometimes it feels like the Internet is just an outrage machine." This is the dark side of online advocacy, observed Atlantic senior editor Alexis Madrigal during a conversation with Jen Dulski of Change.org and Liba Rubenstein of tumblr at the Silicon Valley Summit on Monday. It's true that online petitions occasionally prompt social change in real life, but it's also true that, some days, social media seems like a repetitive cycle of anger. Twitter wars and irate comments sections and rant-y blog posts get tiresome after a while.
Rubenstein agreed that this worry is understandable, but she argued that good product design can alleviate some of this ragey-ness. She cited two aspects of tumblr's design that keep it from contributing to the Internet's "engine for outrage."
First, the company doesn't allow a commenting free-for-all. "We don’t have traditional online commenting," Rubenstein said. "Commenting was a cesspool of online exchanges—[it’s] the ability to dump on someone else’s content and walk away from it. If you’re going to participate in a conversation [on tumblr], that comment is going to follow you and broadcast to all of your followers. Not to say that there’s not vitriol on tumblr, but that’s product design that’s trying to encourage a more positive and responsible type of online exchange."