There are lots of problems with social media, blamed for so much fake news and the like, undermining everyday politics one way or another.
I’ve been warning about parts of the problem for almost two decades, as a memetic phenomenon, and in the last couple of years – aside from the explicitly political commentaries – even the execs and ex-execs of the various social media companies have been bemoaning the monster they had unwittingly unleashed – previously: Ripping Society Apart“.
[Post Note: See also Jaron Lanier picking up on this industry reaction – statistical addiction by stealth. There is no “evil genius” here, no “creator”. Lanier is right, but strangely Martin Bashir doesn’t get the point – focussing on technical differences between the products, not on the core problem – see additional post-notes below.]
As I say, there are many ways of slicing and dicing the problem, and things like the anonymity vs the humanity of our sources is one dimension, but I believe the one factor that is the multiplier of all others is its pace. The speed and ubiquity of communication. Rather than caring about the humanity of content there is a kind of instant gratification in the recognition and interaction.
This is a clear example of the former with a quote directly about the latter:
Social media is helping to destroy the fabric of civil society “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we [at Facebook] have created are destroying how society works—no civil discourse, no coöperation, misinformation, mistruth” https://t.co/9yEnBdgiiC https://t.co/zBjxf6AxlR
— Rupert Myers (@RupertMyers) September 12, 2018
It bears repeating – it’s the dopamine buzz:
“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we [at Facebook] have created are destroying how society works—no civil discourse, no coöperation, misinformation, mistruth”
As I keep saying, this loop is pure memetics. Stuff that is “catchy” spreads faster and wider than stuff that is “good”. This is why. Being exceptional / reactionary or ironic / funny at the expense of established wisdom becomes received wisdom because it’s less boring. Boring is the opposite of dopamine. Inhuman – uncivil – extremes always win.
In order to care about the humanity and reality of a communication beyond the buzz – it is necessary to pause, check and ignore if it looks inhuman, as I try to do with anything suspiciously anonymous or bot-like. But that pause is boring compared to the buzz available.
I’ve written on moderation before, and it sounds like restricting freedoms of communication, but we really have to dampen down the buzz, moderate the pace. Avoid short-termism writ large. You can say anything you like, so long as you s a y i t s l o w l y and in moderation.
Lots of other good stuff in the New Yorker piece on Zuckerberg.
[Post Note: Great piece also from Jamie Bartlett
– still not actually got his book, but must do –
here on his Medium blog:
“The war between technology & democracy“.]
[And two more post notes re Jamie: Let’s not ban anonymity. And let’s recognise the disaster of automating the “objective” content.]
[The “addiction” to easy objectivity was an original driver here. Social and other electronic media simply reinforce and accelerate the process. Janier too, picks up on the fact that the novelty is not the algorithms themselves, but the rapid reinforcement. Frankie Boyle gets the addiction aspect here in 2015, and I include my original 2006 reference.]