Living in a Connected World 2018/In what ways do social platforms like Twitter impact on user emotional intelligence?
|"I don't want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them." - Oscar Wilde.|
Definitions of emotional intelligenceEdit
In this age of social media attacks, broken commitments, and rampant corruption, a high emotional intelligence quotient, or EQ, is more important than ever. Justin Bariso believes that increasing your knowledge about emotions, you’ll better understand yourself and make wiser decisions. (Bariso, 2018)  But what exactly is emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence (EQ or EI) is the recognition and acquisition of one’s own as well as others emotions along with the capability to employ this emotional information in the thinking process and in taking appropriate steps. Individuals, groups or organisations with superior emotional cognisance are assumed to be superior in guiding emotions in dealing with environmental disputes. (Sparrow & Knight, 2006) Basically it is the ability to perceive others’ emotions and exhibit yours to manage in order to empathise and understand each other and your surroundings.
Similarly, Chakraborty & Konar (2009) discuss how emotional intelligence has alternative definitions depending on which professional sphere it relates to. For example, physiologists have long linked emotional unrest with physical changes in hormone levels in the body, psychologists tend to classify emotion into the four distinct categories of cognition, evaluation, motivation and feeling and philoshophers, on the other hand, are concerned with the relationship between emotion and rationality. The scope of emotional intelligence, however, is very broad but we will try to break it down into four very general abilities:
|Self-awareness||Self-management||Social awareness||Relationship management|
|One’s ability to recognize their own emotional strengths and weaknesses in order to impact their thoughts and actions, to help or distract them.||The ability to manage those emotions. The tendency to self–control in a way to allow you to accomplish your goals.||The tendency to perceive the feelings of others and understand where they are coming from. To see things from their perspective and understand what influenced their behavior. This majorly works on the principle of empathy.||A skill to influence others with your communications and behaviors. It is you benefiting them and understanding the role emotions play in a relationship. Also, to make the most out of those bonds with others.|
A brief history of TwitterEdit
Social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and particularly Twitter in this study make it very easy to like, comment or retweet thus making it very easy for other people to show solidarity of emotions with just a few clicks. Research indicates that emotional intelligence is significant in life comforts and achievements; it also facilitates emotional and social adjustments. (Salovey, Mayer & Caruso, 2002)
Throughout this essay, we will be focusing on Twitter, or twttr as it was originally code-named, which was developed and ultimately launched in July 2006 by New York University undergraduates Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone and Evan Williams. (O'Reilly & Milstein, 2011) But as the boundary between social media and reality continues to merge, Twitter is establishing itself not only as a vessel for social interaction but also social politics. Just as Franklin Roosevelt utilised the radio to reassure the American public and John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan made use of the contemporary functionalities of the television to promote their campaigns (Galdieri, Lucas & Sisco, 2018)
Donald Trump, in particular, turned to Twitter to interact with potential supporters and disseminate proposed policies ahead of his somewhat unlikely victory at the 2016 US Presidential Election. Although originally seen as nothing more than a series of harmless tweets designed to provoke a reaction from his critics, he has since, somewhat ironically, found himself in federal court over his overuse of the ‘block’ function whenever confronted by opponents on controversial policy changes or even past crude remarks. Such disruptive behavior is somewhat unusual from such an authoritative figure on such a public platform with some analysts believing an EQ overhaul could be the ultimate solution to a greater overall online presence.
Social media platforms, and Twitter in particular, possess all of the key components necessary for social movements to thrive. Take Movember for example. Originally the brainchild of Travis Garone and Luke Slattery, the global movement is now an annual event that encourages men to grow moustaches during the month of November in an attempt to raise awareness of various mental and physical health problems such as prostate cancer and male suicide. It centres on an individuals ability to grow a moustache and subsequently raise money from the process of maintaining it for the duration of the month of November. Much like the MeToo movement, this creates a sense of community within a group of homogeneous individuals which in turn invokes feelings of self-awareness as participants engage with others who are also partaking in the event.
In what has become somewhat customary for online social movements, Movember has also attracted criticism for its decision to feature on Australian current affairs show Today Tonight back in 2007. However, in a somewhat unexpected move, the program later accused the movement of spending an unnecessary amount of money on running costs and employee salaries, apparently disregarding its charitable premise. The foundation appeared to ignore controversy and focus instead on rebuilding its brand which, according to their most recent annual report, is currently ranked 54th out of the top 500 non-governmental organisations.
Another prominent social movement proliferated by Twitter is MeToo. Although first conceived in 2006 by social activist Tarana Burke, the hashtag re-emerged and was reintroduced to popular culture in 2017 by actress Alyssa Milano who popularised it to describe her own personal account of sexual harassment at the hands of disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein. It has since been tweeted over 19 million times with the phrase now deemed a testimony to women’s empowerment and the reporting of sexual harassment on a global scale.
But how do social movements, like Movember and Metoo, relate to the practice of emotional intelligence? Social platforms like Twitter allow instantaneous communication between otherwise unfamiliar individuals through the use of 'like', 'retweet' and 'reply' functions. As a specialized hashtag is retweeted, it is reintroduced to a brand new audience of users who then have the option to present it to their own distinct band of followers. This collaborative process gives way to a series of contemporaneous, albeit unintentional, connections between users of a common social space which can be especially valuable given that 'emotions often provide individuals with valuable information about their social environment'. (Emmerling et al., 2007, p. ix) Malcolm Goldwell introduced the concept of how seemingly futile everyday occurrences can trigger rapid social change in his debut book The Tipping Point (2000). This somewhat revolutionary theory goes some way to explain the social power of a retweet and the immediate effect it can have on the dissemination of a social movement through the various channels that exist on digital platforms like Twitter.
As well as the relationship between emotional intelligence and social change, this discussion also elicits the debate of gender roles within social movements. Take the afore-mentioned case studies of MeToo and Movember, for example. Both are centered on - and quite frankly would be rendered somewhat obsolete without - key attributes affiliated with one distinct gender despite this argument triggering countless accusations of sexism. #HowIWillChange: Engaging Men and Boys in the #MeToo Movement  aimed to uncover male perspectives of the MeToo narrative by tracking the use of the user-generated #HowIWillChange hashtag and categorising these responses in relation to a list of general reactions that are either in solidarity with women, ignorant to their claims or even going as far as to deny the existence of rape culture.
When AI goes wrong: Microsoft introduces TayEdit
Unlike other user-generated campaigns, Microsoft attracted headlines in 2016 for its implementation of software that traversed traditional modes of communication. The company launched a Twitter bot by the name of Tay (officially, Tay.ai) that was to be an experiment in artificial intelligence in developing a human-like persona by engaging with millennials in an online setting. Things took a disastrous turn, however, when, within hours of its release, hackers turned Tay into a hate-spewing racist. (USA TODAY, 2017)
Although the account has now been muted, eagle-eyed users were able to record the tweets in question posted by @TayandYou on March 24 2016 with some of the most offensive being:
- @icbydt bush did 9/11 and Hitler would have done a better job than the monkey we have now. donald trump is the only hope we've got.
- @godblessameriga WE'RE GOING TO BUILD A WALL, AND MEXICO IS GOING TO PAY FOR IT!
- @OmegaVoyager i love feminism now (The Guardian, 2016). 
This project was quickly and quite rightfully shuttered with a public apology issued momentarily. ‘We are deeply sorry for the unintended offensive and hurtful tweets from Tay, which do not represent who we are or what we stand for, or how we designed Tay. Tay is now offline and we’ll look to bring Tay back only when we are confident we can better anticipating malicious intent that conflicts with our principles and values. We will do everything possible to limit technical exploits but also know we cannot fully predict all possible human interactive misuses without learning from mistakes. We will remain steadfast in our efforts to learn from this and other experiences as we work toward contributing to an Internet that represents the best, not the worst, of humanity.’ But Tay's account was never recovered with most people assuming Microsoft just wanted to forget the experiment ever occured in the first place. (Official Mircosoft Blog, 2016).  This apology confirms that they are self-aware of their online identity as a world-renowned tech company and how public acknowledgement of the issue helped them to manage and regain their trust and relationship with consumers.
The third feature of this case we will analyse consists of an email written by the CEO of Microsoft to his employees. It read: 'Keep pushing, and know that I am with you' in an attempt to urge staff to take the criticism with a pinch of salt while exercising 'deep empathy for anyone hurt by Tay.' and that '(The) key is to keep learning and improving. (USA TODAY, 2017).
All of us that have worked in large organisations and know the importance of managers, supervisors and - above all - CEO's feedback and approvals towards our behaviour within professional environments. To reiterate, empathy is a skill that can help people to work better in individual environments as well as in teams and when you take other people's perspective into account, you are then able to connect with them on a deeper, emotional level.
Thus, this is why we still cannot fully rely on technology. However, technology and artificial intelligence is not the main feature of our argument. If we look at the whole scenario from the damage done by Tays’s tweets back in 2016 - regardless of the fact that tweets were produced by a bot - it still affected vulnerable groups and more than likely damaged the company's reputation albeit temporarily. Microsoft’s apology was not a normal response to such a crisis. It is very difficult for big names like Microsoft to get exposed like this and be left in a position where they are vulnerable to the masses. They could have easily blamed other factors and used their influence as a pioneer of digital technology to shift accountability to another, lesser-known company but they defended their use of the platform and their role in the scandal whilst at the same time avoiding any lasting damage to their reputation, therefore protecting the company’s mission and ethics. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this story, however, was the email from the CEO. How many times do we see leaders like him? He showed an encouraging tone showcasing a great example of relationship management. These actions add value to the company as a whole and builds up a sense of loyalty and trust, which is key to all great, professional relationship.
'You know you are emotionally intelligent when you know how make emotions work for instead of against you. It’s time to put your emotions to work.' (Bariso, 2018)
To conclude, social media platforms like Twitter facilitate in creating online environments within which emotional intelligence can be measured. Social movements, like Me Too and Movember in particular, are key examples of ways in which users are able to express self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. With regards to the MeToo movement and sexual harassment claims on the internet in general, it is important to note how much public reactions can make a lasting impact on the victim. First and foremost, it takes a lot of courage to speak out against sexual violence. Hostile reactions, accusations that you are not telling the truth and questions of why you didn't speak out sooner are all common responses to such claims and this can trigger lasting, emotional damage that is reflective of not only social media platforms like Twitter but a longstanding societal crisis that is only more prevalent in today's digital age.
- Bariso, J. (2018). EQ Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence. Germany: Borough Hall.
- Sparrow, T., Knight, A. (2006). Applied EI: The importance of attitudes in developing emotional intelligence. Sussex: Jossey-Base.
- Chakraborty, A., Konar, A. (2009). Emotional Intelligence: A Cybernetic Approach. Berlin: Springer.
- Salovey, P., Mayer, J. D. & Caruso, D. R. (2002). The positive psychology of emotional intelligence. In C. R. Synder and S. J. Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology (pp. 159-171). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- O'Reilly, T. Milstein, S. (2011). The Twitter Book. Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly Media Inc.
- Galdieri, C. J., Lucas, J. C., Sisco, T. S. (2018). Introduction. In Galdieri, C. J., Lucas, J. C., Sisco, T. S. (Eds.), The Role of Twitter in the 2016 US Election (pp. 1-5). Cham: Palgrave.
- Forbes. (2018). Prone to Misfiring on Twitter? Discover How Emotional Intelligence Can Help. Retrieved 27/11, 2018, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2018/10/01/prone-to-misfiring-on-twitter-discover-how-emotional-intelligence-can-help/#69efae9d19df
- Pew Research Centre. (2018). The #MeToo hashtag has been used roughly 19 million times on Twitter in the past year, and usage often surges around news events. Retrieved 27/11, 2018, from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/10/11/how-social-media-users-have-discussed-sexual-harassment-since-metoo-went-viral/ft_18-10-11_metooanniversary_hashtag-used-19m_times/#.
- Emmerling, R. J., Shanwal, V. K., Mandal, M. K., Batista-Foguet, J. M., Bernhard, U., Bhardwaj, G. (2007). Emotional Intelligence: Theoretical and Cultural Perspectives. New York: Nova Science Publishers Incorporated.
- (Pettyjohn, M. E., Muzzey, F. K., Maas, M., McCauley, H. L., 2018)
- USA TODAY. (2017). Microsoft's Satya Nadella is counting on culture shock to drive growth. Retrieved 28/11, 2018, from https://eu.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2017/02/20/microsofts-satya-nadella-counting-culture-shock-drive-growth/98011388/.
- The Guardian. (2016). Tay, Microsoft's AI chatbot, gets a crash course in racism from Twitter. Retrieved 26/11, 2018, from https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/mar/24/tay-microsofts-ai-chatbot-gets-a-crash-course-in-racism-from-twitter.
- Official Mircosoft Blog. (2016). Learning from Tay’s introduction. Retrieved 26/11, 2018, from https://blogs.microsoft.com/blog/2016/03/25/learning-tays-introduction/#sm.0000x5ncvafjkel7qin1ue35ompd9.
- USA TODAY. (2017). Microsoft's Satya Nadella is counting on culture shock to drive growth. Retrieved 26/11, 2018, from https://eu.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2017/02/20/microsofts-satya-nadella-counting-culture-shock-drive-growth/98011388/.
- Bariso, J. (2018). EQ Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence. Germany: Borough Hall.