Is Slack becoming too similar to a corporate after party at a dive bar? Let me explain.
This blog title is by no means a reflection of my feelings for Slack itself. As a product designer, I love Slack. Communicating with GIPHs? Yes. Customized channels that cater to every niche? Yes. Integrations with other applications for a seamless experience? Yes. But despite all the great things about Slack as a product and a company, it feels like we’ve possibly opened a portal into the darkest and most perverse parts of humanity (slightly joking, but mostly serious).
As we all have seen happen since the dawn of the internet, people who are able to hide their identity behind a screen use this free range to troll and offend and bully with little to no reprimand. While not ideal, I can see how the publicness of public forums encourages this kind of behavior. Sites like Twitter, Reddit and YouTube have become known as breeding grounds for horrible comments and death threats as the war between hate speech and freedom of speech rages on in this modern era. Slack, however, is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Slack has evolved from what was originally an internal tool for a small gaming company to the industry-standard way of communicating in enterprises. Beyond the mass of companies that are on Slack are also communities that don’t quite fall into the categories of either coworkers OR close friends. I’m talking professional organizations, niche interest audiences, local groups, school alumni and former coworkers. Unlike slack channels used in the workplace, these other communities don’t have strict guidelines in place outlining what is and isn’t appropriate or an HR team to monitor people’s comments. In this grey area, the assumption is that everyone will self-monitor and deem what they feel is an acceptable way to communicate with their peers.
The tricky part with self-monitoring is the subjectivity of what each of us finds appropriate and if/how to hold people accountable if we feel they’ve stepped past a line. In these scenarios, people aren’t confined to following their job’s policies but they’re also not in the comfortable and trusting space of a group text message with buddies they’ve known for years. In that way, it can be both as valuable AND as seedy as a corporate happy hour turned after party at a local dive bar. On one hand, it’s great to be in a slightly more relaxed setting with your work peers/superiors and build a rapport that can’t quite be captured the same way as in an office…