November 20, 2019Published by: Drew Benvie

Highlights from a TED talk: Drew Benvie at TEDxBristol

UPDATE (Feb 10, 2020): my TEDx talk is now available to watch on YouTube.

Autumn in the UK is event season, and it has been a particularly busy few weeks here at Battenhall HQ. Having just emerged from our annual social media trends breakfast briefing and the launch of our new social media report, last weekend saw the culmination of many months of hard work for me personally. After a lengthy process of applying, auditioning, and training, I finally got to deliver a TEDx Talk at the Bristol Old Vic last Sunday.

Autumn in the UK is event season, and it has been a particularly busy few weeks here at Battenhall HQ. Having just emerged from our annual social media trends breakfast briefing and the launch of our new social media report, last weekend saw the culmination of many months of hard work for me personally. After a lengthy process of applying, auditioning, and training, I finally got to deliver a TEDx Talk at the Bristol Old Vic last Sunday.

One of my jobs here at Battenhall is to help companies, charities and figureheads work out how they can use social media for good. But if you follow current affairs, you'll see that it's not all plain sailing for the social networks right now. So when I was offered the opportunity to do a TED talk about how social media could navigate these turbulent waters and help save the world, I grabbed it with both hands.

My talk was titled: One Million Harms an Hour – Saving Social Media. It addressed the vital things we need to know about the harms that spread online, and our responsibility to better understand what's real and what's fake. Through these practices it's my hope that we can help make social media a powerful force for good in society.

How it all started... on Wikipedia
In 2006 I inadvertently became one of the first people involved in the social media movement – it wasn't really called social media widely before then. Social networking, Web 2.0 – all sorts of names were flying about. But I decided to write the page on 'social media' on Wikipedia. Nobody cared much back then. So I wrote the second, third and fourth pages too... Shortly after that it was everywhere. Twitter took off, Facebook opened up, and a bit later on, Instagram launched.

Data nerd
This year I've been poring over more statistics than ever, and one type of stat in particular got me thinking about what needs to be removed from social media because it is harmful in some way.

Facebook, for example, released a number of stats this year showing how many fake accounts it deletes. It equates to approximately one million every hour of every day. I know many find this staggering, which is why it formed the crux of my TEDxBristol talk. I then went on to share some more of the darker parts of social media, and how it's getting blamed for a lot of what's wrong with the world at the moment – social anxiety and pressure, spreading political disinformation, and much more.

I shared some of the numbers from a variety of social networks on how many hate speech posts, pieces of terror propaganda, troll accounts and plain old spam need deleting to keep social media safe(ish).

“Because while regulation will help, and technology will improve to shield us from online harms, the power is in our hands.”

Drew Benvie

Powerful force for change
After telling a story of how trolls and bots act on social media, as a way of illustrating that not everyone and everything online is what it seems, I finished my talk by explaining three skills we all need to use if we are to make social media great again. Because while regulation will help, and technology will improve to shield us from online harms, the power is in our hands.

I won't give too much away, as the talk will be online soon and I want you to see it in full. Briefly, though, the essentials are: knowing how to spot harmful accounts on social media, not trusting everything you see, and following more positive influences. It might sound simple, but it'll be a wake-up call for many, and I think it will work wonders for everyone's social media wellbeing.

Illustration by Liam Williams – www.leodo.co.uk

About Battenhall

We look after brand profiles on social media, and we're proudly the world's #1 at what we do. Named The Drum's social media agency of the year for the last three years running. Get in touch! hello@battenhall.com

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