The social sciences don’t tell us much about social media, but some of the insights are encouraging.
For example, it does not appear to be the case that social media are threatening in any unusual way. Those who fear that social media spread dangerous misinformation can cool their jets. Society itself tends to spread misinformation such that social media don’t deserve special attention in the matter.
8 thoughts on “How Bad is Social Media?”
This morning in Home Depot, I saw a couple buying interlocking tools chests. They had 3 children with them, the youngest about 4. Two were looking at their phones and the 4 year old was sitting on the floor in the aisle watching a kid’s video on a tablet. When the parents headed to checkout, the two older kids followed like zombies and the 4 year old had a full on tantrum because her video was interrupted.
Physicist Enrico Fermi asked the question, ‘Where are they?’ referring to alien civilizations. With billions of stars capable of supporting life, many much older than ours, aliens should have visited us or at least we should be able to pick up their reality TV shows in the ether, yet in spite of our best efforts, we can’t find them. It appears we are alone in the universe, almost a mathematical impossibility. So, where are they?
I think I have the answer. Once a civilization reaches the capability to create social media and video games, they stop reproducing and die out. I fear those 3 children will be the end of that gene line.
Maybe social media and video games ARE the aliens.
Impact, anonymity and reach.
If you wanted to create a conspiracy or spread misinformation decades ago, the impact was minimal unless you had celebrity status, sent out leaflets, wrote a popular book. Anonymity weakened your case. And reaching more than a few hundred meant organization, money, connections and lots of time. And, more importantly, rebuttal had a chance.
Now a 400 lb. Man eating Cheetos and drinking Red Bull (where have we heard that before?) can impact millions, anonymously and at low cost. With the human tendency to favor outrage, the posts can be resent by the 10’s of millions before being challenged by fact checks nobody makes viral.
Look at the battle for moderation if anyone thinks the internet social media sites are just press or media with another name.
I think that social media evolved faster than we are capable of handling. We are all part of an updated Skinner rat experiment except the pellets are affirmations that inspire us to post whatever works to get popularity.
Open and transparent debate? Like two people at podiums with a timer? Hardly. We have one side pouring out misinformation and hate by the millions against the dry work of fact checking for those who bother.
I am not sure what the best solutions are, but IMO the Constitution is outgunned by technology in the First Amendment (and Second for that matter, but another topic.)
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RE: “Now a 400 lb. Man eating Cheetos and drinking Red Bull (where have we heard that before?) can impact millions, anonymously and at low cost.”
If you believe the science in the video, such things almost never happen.
Perhaps not. But more sophisticated methods will get the same results.
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Surely the plethora of media outlets makes that impossible.
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That’s the argument.