You Can’t Just Solve the ‘Fake News’ Problem by Getting Rid of Social Media
We have to think about why people are so angry in the first place
Last week, The Atlantic published “Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid” by Jon Haidt, the NYU professor and author of The Coddling of the American Mind.
Haidt has perfected the art of “Get Off of My Lawn-ism,” or finding ways to rationalize and codify the idea that things used to be perfect until [shaking fist] kids came and messed everything up. The market for Get Off My Lawn-ism is huge. What old white guy doesn’t miss the days when you used to be able to get away with not taking anyone’s feelings into consideration? What percentage of Boomers (and beyond) think that the internet is ruining all the things?
I agree with most of Haidt’s essay; here’s its overall point:
Social scientists have identified at least three major forces that collectively bind together successful democracies: social capital (extensive social networks with high levels of trust), strong institutions, and shared stories. Social media has weakened all three. To see how, we must understand how social media changed over time — and especially in the several years following 2009.
He then blames the Retweet function and Like button for all the world’s ills: a democracy gone wrong, the spread of misinformation, conspiracy theories, etc., etc. Don’t get me wrong — Facebook f***ing sucks, I think the company should burn in hell for knowing that Instagram is bad for the mental health of teenagers and for inciting unrest abroad. And it’s scary that a sizable portion of people claim to get their news from Facebook; the only news I’ve ever gotten from Facebook is that a) most of my former high school classmates have kids, and b) everyone I’ve ever known has gained weight.
But the problem isn’t just with Facebook. Facebook is speeding up the rate of how quickly people can pass information along.
I’m increasingly blown away by how easy it is to live in a completely different world than your neighbor, simply by subscribing to different things and being in a different algorithmic wormhole. Case in point: My own brother, who is also my neighbor, is not…