“In Case the Occupy Movement Doesn’t Work” — Let’s Legally Require “Mandatory Social Media Service” to “Increase Empathy”

Now here’s an idea whose time hasn’t come, and is unlikely to come, from Edward Boches (Creativity_Unbound). (Boches is “Chief Innovation Officer” at a relatively prominent advertising agency, though he writes the blog on his own behalf, not the agency’s.) The plan:

Here’s my idea for saving America in case the Occupy Movement doesn’t work. It’s an idea that could help us increase empathy. It takes full advantage of social media’s true potential. It’s a program that steals from the military and juries — practices that do work — when it comes to creating interdependency.

Mandatory social media service

  • We require every 18-year-old in America to participate in mandatory social media service as part of a daily or weekly routine for one year.
  • We assign our young adults to a racially diverse online social group comprised of 12 people from different regions, backgrounds, income brackets. (Google+ is a potential platform.)
  • We present each group with a social challenge -– obesity, jobs, poverty, high cost of education, even the problem of young men getting their sex education from watching online porn — and we ask them to solve the problem.
  • We give them benchmarks, goals, and require an outcome in the form of an idea, a program, a new policy or maybe just a video.
  • Finally we aggregate all of the solutions on one public website where the press, our legislatures, businesses and educators can access, rate and maybe even implement the ideas.

And when some of the 18-year-olds — resentful of being forced to hang out with people they didn’t choose, and not faced with the normal social pressures that make us be polite to people right around us — start saying nasty things to each other, I take it we’ll just charge them with cyberbullying (perhaps with a hate crime sentencing enhancement), right? Or perhaps the “official moderator, someone to coach and keep track” in case “partisan differences challenge collaboration” (two of the possible implementation options that the column suggests) will just work it all out.

Actually, I agree that a sense of community and common citizenship is pretty important for our democracy. I just think that legal coercion is a pretty poor way of trying to arrange it — poor as a matter of respecting 18-year-olds’ rights, and poor as a matter of actually accomplishing something worthwhile. And even if such legal coercion is sometimes justified when military service or jury decisionmaking are involved, that hardly supports slipping down the slope to thinking that the government should be free to order citizens to speak and to listen for the sake of “increas[ing] empathy” or “creating interdependency.”

And I say that even assuming that — God forbid! — “the Occupy Movement doesn’t work.”