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How Social Media Exploits Our Moral Emotions (nautil.us)
54 points by dnetesn 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 10 comments

While social networks should make improvements to facilitate healthier communication, mean comments and pitchforking is not exclusive to social networks in any way.

If you were on a forum and said a racist comment like the one in the article, if people didn't like it you would probably be put on blast and have ruined your reputation on that forum as well. Difference is that it's not your face. If you feel like it's okay to say racist things, you probably are not going to realize your mistake unless called out by someone.

So to me it seems like social media is just piggybacking on the proclivity of people's desire to be seen and heard.

Except social media is engineered to make everyone a public figure, so you aren't just going to be rebuked by the crowd; your family and employment get targeted.

This is why social networks in their current form are a lousy way of expressing original thought. Even if you don't say things particularly controversial, if they're not in line with the lowest common denominator, the chance you'll see any legitimate engagement is slim.

Forums, on the other hand, are largely anonymous. You'll definitely be put on blast for what you say, but the inherent anonymity helps to deter the angry crowd from shutting down conversation by default. Of course, it depends on who is running the forum. Reddit, as much of a cesspool as parts of it are, is a modern example of how anonymity leads to far more productive conversation than one may ever see on the likes of Facebook or Twitter. Yes, Reddit shuts down subreddits it doesn't like on occasion, but it's overall more hospitable to an exchange of ideas. Good luck having those same conversations on social media, even if you manage to use a pseudonym.

I'm honestly sick of people wanted to be heard. Almost nobody has anything interesting to say. It's all noise for attention. Just like my post here I guess.

That and people being enraged by just about everything. There's a lot in the world to be troubled by, but to always have visceral reactions towards things happening around the world must be taxing on one's health. I don't think a day goes by where I don't see a post by someone making a banal statement about some issue... and I'm supposed to "like" that they've managed to think the same things millions of average Joes and Janes already believe.

People wanting to be heard and feeling part of a community is a basic human need. We receive it in many different ways, and while social media is not always the healthiest way, it is one of them. People become depressed without being heard.

That makes me think a little bit differently about filter bubbles. Filter bubbles aren't new. They're just changing from physical proximity into ideological or emotional response (as best as an algorithm can tell) proximity.

Great TED talk on the original twitter kerfuffle referenced in the article:


CGP Grey's take on how outrage is used to exploit us through social media: (Yes, I link this often, because the message is valuable.)


A good rule for using social media responsibly: When you wish to express yourself, consider if your self-expression is of value to the people who hear it. If you are encouraging other people to be angry, it probably isn't.

I would agree with one caveat: focusing anger at causes of human suffering is A-OK.

Although, maybe it's too hard to efectively generalize social media usage like that.

Is it possible to design a system that can ONLY be used responsibly? At lease in matters of expression?

> Many social media companies now appear to agree with Brady and are making efforts to address some of the concerns that research like his raises. Twitter, for example, recently announced an open call for proposals on how to improve “conversational health” on its platform. And last October, Reddit rolled out a more robust policy for actively monitoring its discussion boards.

Those initiatives weren't designed to lessen the "exploitation of moral emotions", they were designed to give preference towards the extreme moral emotions of a particular world view.

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