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The person who may have the most difficult job at Facebook

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Of Facebook’s 7,185 employees, Arturo
Bejar may have the most difficult job.
No, he is not responsible for
increasing advertising revenue or
keeping the website alive 24 hours a
day. Mr. Bejar has a much more
inscrutable task: teaching the site’s
1.3 billion users, especially its tens of
millions of teenagers, how to be nice
and respectful to one another.
Respectful? Online? Ha! That’s never
going to happen. Everyone knows that
social media is an unwinnable game
of who can be meaner. If Mr. Bejar
thinks he can make Facebook users
nice, he is — to borrow a popular
Facebook comment — just stupid!
But that kind of response is exactly
what Mr. Bejar is counting on. As the
director of engineering for the
Facebook Protect and Care team, 80-
strong, he believes that most users are
not trying to be mean and that they
will retract a comment (and even feel
bad about it) if they realize it has
caused someone harm.

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“The way our brains work, we have
evolved to understand each other by
tone of voice or seeing facial
expressions, but that gets lost through
the devices we use to communicate,”
Mr. Bejar said last week in an
interview at Facebook’s New York
offices.
In other words, Mr. Bejar is trying to
create empathy among Facebook
users, in what used to happen in real
settings like the playground through
social cues like crying and laughter.
This may seem like a piffling side
project to some. But I believe the
success of social media largely
depends on solving this problem and
teaching users to be kinder and more
empathetic. Most people I know who
have quit services like Twitter and
Instagram have done so because
commenters were spiteful, insensitive
or just plain nasty.
According to a report released this
week by Pew Research’s Internet
Project , 65 percent of young adults 18
to 29 in the United States said that
they had been harassed online, and 92
percent had witnessed someone else
being bullied.
But Facebook’s efforts to curb this
may be working. The company told
me that each week eight million
Facebook members use tools that allow
users to report a harmful post or
photo. (The tools can be used by
clicking on the little upside-down
arrow in the upper right corner of a
post or the options button at the
bottom of photos.)
Mr. Bejar’s team designed these tools
to let people know someone had hurt
their feelings, and he said the system
actually worked. (This is different
from the newsfeed experiment in
June, when Facebook received
criticism for tinkering with people’s
emotions as part of a psychological
study to examine how emotions can be
spread on social media.)
Creating empathy on Facebook has not
been easy. Researchers have learned
that a few letters can have a profound
impact. For example, in the first
iteration of these tools, Facebook gave
users a short list of vague emotions —
like “embarrassing” — to
communicate why they wanted a post
removed. At the time, 50 percent of
users seeking to delete a post would
use the tool, but when Facebook added
the word “it’s” to create a complete
sentence (“It’s embarrassing”), the
interaction shot up to 78 percent.
Teenager are a particular focus, not
just as victims of cyberbullying but
because they sometimes lack the
emotional maturity to handle negative
posts.
Dr. Marc Brackett, director of the Yale
Center for Emotional Intelligence, who
is working with Facebook on this
emotions project with the Protect and
Care team, said their research found
that teenagers need more pathways
and options to voice their feelings.
On Facebook, teenagers are presented
with more options than just “it’s
embarrassing” when they want to
remove a post. They are asked what’s
happening in the post, how they feel
about it and how sad they are. In
addition, they are given a text box
with a polite pre-written response that
can be sent to the friend who hurt
their feelings. (In early versions of
this feature, only 20 percent of
teenagers filled out the form. When
Facebook added more descriptive
language like “feelings” and
“sadness,” the figure grew to 80
percent.) Pls continue reading from the Source.

Written by: By NICK BILTON.
Credits: The New York Times.

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