The micro-environments and the freedom to block (I)

The Street guerrilla has arrived to social media

In the last few months I have seen enormous waves of people blocking other users in Twitter. I have even seen public mass petitions to block abusers, transforming these initiatives into social causes in order to achieve the closure of the account.

Another strategy followed by many political parties in Spain has been to create armies of bots who started to follow certain influencers close to the opposite party, then, they did a massive unfollow and blockage, discrediting the reputation of those particular accounts and, finally, the closure of the account by the social media platform. These are real digital wars in the political and philosophical streams in social media.

This strategy of “easy aggression” has permeated the rest of the users. Before, when we saw any dislikeable content either we ignored it or, in the worst, we silenced the account with un unfollow. Blocking someone was something very serious. Many realized that the platforms watch on blockings. This affects the visibility of the blocked account for other users, diminishing its influence to new potential audiences. Algorithms are here to stay, letting those with a few followers in the shadows for longer time, or, those who already have many followers but refuse to play the game of “pay per ad” or “pay to promote your content” to the same fate.

We may observe that, when someone has an aggressive speech (whether his cause is right or not), even those who sympathizes with the cause, even friends or family, will end silencing that feed, unfollowing the account or even blocking it. This should bring us to a thoughtful use of social media.

This pattern of relational behavior shows that users are looking for their own comfortable digital environment where they feel understood and reflected. Find oneself with likeable ideas and creating one artificial bubble around ourselves in social media will make more difficult to other users to reach us with new content and new ideas. This are the so-called customized “micro-environments”. Algorithms are helping to build these “personalized realities”, by the way, less and less flexible and dynamic, except if, as a producer of content, you are willing to invest in advertising in order to “break through”.

Let’s make a little test. Imagine that you have a group of people in the same room connected to the same Wi-Fi. Let’s ask them to search in Google the same words in the same order. You will observe that the results will vary. Not the same results in the same exact order. The reason is because the “net” has learned which are their tendencies, preferences and even the way each one consumes information.

This new paradigm of digital micro-environments reveals that a massive production of content for social media from the church becomes less effective to reach large audiences. How could we adapt to this new reality and break-in the maximum of micro-environments?

Only by publishing content with similar ideas to certain audiences in different supports or social medias we will expand our circle of influence. It is too easy to target the easy audiences, those who are already “converted” to your message or ideas. In order to achieve a bigger success and diffusion, we need a multitude and variety of contents, which implies a bigger and less homogeny group of authors or creators of content (ambassadors or influencers).

If from the institutions we do not attempt intentionally this diversification, the only result will be to impair the audience’s loyalty. Nevertheless, this creativity, which might be delegated (to influencers or institutional community managers) might be widely echoed in the audience already engaged (church members or sympathizers) with their own preferences or priorities (micro-environments). They will share our content with third level contacts who are more familiar with this intermediate micro-environment. The non-reached audiences might be reachable using the catalyzer of the intermediate user, building bridges between the final audience and the institution.

We have already explained in other articles the need of implication by the maximum number of people in order to reach a vast multitude through a wide network of “filters” or “catalyzers” who will bring the content to those unknown users for the official institution. We need people who might reuse the content and, maybe, transform it to make it understandable to those who are not acquainted with the Gospel, making more likeable a message which in first instance is alienated to their micro-environments. That’s why we need the Total Member Implication applied to social media and digital world.

Today I am focusing in blocking people with just a click. Blocking those who think different or that I just dislike or are unkind and impolite to others. This has, even indirectly, bad consequences for our official accounts. Do not forget that we might teach one same biblical truth with love and patience instead of a critical and accusing pointing finger. The results are very different.

Enterprises know that the internet user experience is a priority. They have invested time and money to research which content will be well received, the consumer will be comfortable with and will find instructive. They also are constantly seeking for these “ambassadors” as catalyzers to slightly transform the way of introducing the product to its audiences.

“Comfortable” it does not mean that the uncomfortable truths have to be hidden. It is clear that a great work has to be done. We need to stop accusing, attacking verbally and criticizing with certain content towards other entities, specially in social media. We find precisely this example in the Bible. Some would say that Jesus pointed with his finger even when he reproached the “hypocrite Pharisees”. These were very particular and sporadic denounces in any case, never systematically done. It was a pedagogical context and, in that case, he was defending himself from a personal attack. That episode deserves to be studied in a crisis management context, but in another moment. Despite the situation, Jesus turned the situation into an opportunity of pedagogic communication.

Download this paper as a PDF file here.


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