Ever wonder why people say so many stupid things on social media? Wonder no more. Excerpt:
Social media is full of word vomit, boneheaded comments, and sheer stupidity. Reasoned discourse regularly goes by the wayside.
There’s a simple explanation for this sorry cesspool. Social media puts humanity’s most primitive thinking on display for all to see.
That’s not meant to be an insult, it’s simply a matter of psychology. In his bestselling book Thinking, Fast and Slow, Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman makes the case that humans utilize two modes of thinking: system 1 and system 2. System 1 is the more primitive of the two, operating “automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control.” On the other hand, system 2 is slow, deliberative, and controlled, used, for example, to fill out a tax form or to check the validity of a complex argument.
It’s apparent which system is most prominently used on social media. Take Twitter, for example, where lots of information arrives lightning fast in brief, 140-character tidbits, and one’s similarly short response is just a few types and a click away. The platform basically goads users into sharing their quickest and most mindless reactions and opinions.
All too often, those responses reflect disgust or take the form of attacks and rebuttals to perceived hostility. That’s not surprising, as Kahneman notes that showing disgust and detecting hostility are two key roles of system 1.
Before social media, public opinions were often prepared and measured. We read and discussed them in fully-formed and edited opinion pieces in reputable newspapers. We watched practiced and polished pundits debate meaningful ideas on cable TV. No more. Now, anyone can broadcast their most thoughtless thoughts and responses to a wide audience.
Readers of these virtual pages will already know I don’t use Twitter. Being something of a garrulous old coot, I can think of few subjects on which I can express any meaningful opinion in 140 characters, except perhaps to petulant demands for justification for my various activities from lefties to whom my response is usually “fuck off.”
But I can see the point behind this assessment of social media in general, especially Twitter. I had a brief flirtation with Facebook some years back, and came to realize that Facebook has the worst noise-to-signal ratio on the Internet, save perhaps YouTube comments. There are some exceptions to the generally low intelligence quotient of most discussion forums; my favorite at the moment is the Glibertarians site. LinkedIn is usually better as well, although not exempt from the stupid-comment rule. (I describe LinkedIn to my kids as ‘Facebook for people with IQs above 70.’)
But there’s a flip side to the stupidity of social media. You’re looking (and I say this in all modesty) at an example of that. That flip side, of course, is the rise of the blogger.
Most of us don’t do this for money. A few high-profile bloggers, like our pal in Rule Five linkery Robert Stacy McCain, manage to monetize their blogs, but they are the exception. Speaking for yr. obdt., I do this for one primary reason – my own personal amusement.
But I would like to think that, unlike Facebook and Twitter, Animal Magnetism continues to be a force for, if not good, at least sanity.
Facebook, meanwhile, continues to provide ample research ground for those studying the Dunning-Kruger Effect.