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Political trolling twice as popular as positivity, study suggests (bbc.com)
193 points by pseudolus 36 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 159 comments

When I was a kid, TV was full of content like "Beyond 2000" were the general population was introduced to possibilities for the future, to what technology will bring to our lives, to what possibilities were out there. There were many problems, probably more than nowadays, but there was a big space for hope.

Where all that content has gone? I have found many YouTube channels that show this kind of futuristic content, but views are in the 100K never millions.

Do people have lost hope? Do people want to just watch negative content?

I do not think so. My guess, and it is just a guess, is that people want to see high-quality content that gives them hopes for the future. But, as choosing fried food over a salad, there is a short term reward that changes that decision. You could go for the salad, you decided at home that today you will choose a healthy fresh salad, but once in the restaurant you choose fried chicken and fries.

When I was a kid, people loved these programs that offered a glimpse into possible futures, kids wanted to be astronauts and technology was magical. Ironically, with so many options today, people chooses things that are bad for their mental health. But, I do not know how to change that.

The pace of technological change makes predicting a viable but exciting future pretty much impossible. Back in 1960s to 80s the futurism of scifi was lots of computers, screens, automation, etc. You could make something look beliveable but far off by applying the cutting edge of tech that people knew about but didn't really have access to and making it look commonplace.

Today the cutting edge of tech looks pretty mundane. It's usually software, which doesn't really translate to looking futuristic. If TV show makers go too far it looks like magic and stops being an achievable dream.

Essentially, the reason why making high quality "dreams of the future" hopeful TV shows doesn't happen any more is because hardware innovation stopped looking exciting. The brilliant thing is that happened because we actually have the hardware now, and that had taught us to be realistic about the (near term) future.

Or a different perspective is that people realized technology wouldn't save us from ourselves. We used to dream how technological increases could reduce global suffering and perhaps even create a post-scarcity world in which we all benefit. But growing income inequality has taught us that would never happen. All technology does is act as a multiplier for our existing society. Instead of technology giving us the United Federation of Planets, we got a repeat of the space race with the two superpowers replaced with two billionaires.

The world is in a massively better place than 50, 20 or even 10 years ago.

Just have a look at https://ourworldindata.org/ and look at the development of extreme poverty, poverty, life expectancy, child mortality, literacy, proportion of the world that lives in a democracy and even happiness and life satisfaction.

I think it’s more nuanced. If people perceive future volatility as having increased, then current situation will not matter for one’s “happiness”.

For many of the young, the story is that the last 60 to 70 years have been awesome, for the world as a whole, and maybe the next 20 to 30 will be too. But the cost will be what comes after.

The world as a whole may be a much better place, but that does nothing to make someone in a rusted-put rust belt town feel any better. “There are fewer starving children in Africa” is an ineffective argument for convincing someone that their life hasn’t gotten worse.

There were intentional decisions made about international trade that at least partially led to both those results. From an economic standpoint, free trade internationally leads to a higher worldwide GDP, but can also lead to losers in specific places like you mention. Good if you lived in a third world country, not good if you were a high school graduate making a living in manufacturing.

Ask those rusted-pot residents if they own a cell phone, and how life is different since they did.

At the same time, phones and social media can make you unhappy, can be for the worse

Now do the same for the US which was the subject of the study.

And regardless it is less whether people's lives are truly better or not. It is more regarding how people feel about how their life might improve in the future. In my peer group, very few people are optimistic about the future of American society. Combine the previously mentioned inequality with the looming threat of climate change and top it off with a dysfunctional government that seems unwilling or unable to address those concerns and the future doesn't look that exciting. The iPhone 18 being better than the iPhone 12 isn't exactly going to inspire hope in a better tomorrow.

But I think this lack of optimism is just another facet of negativity bias. I know a lot of people who say they're not optimistic, certainly - but all of them can point to massive social improvements made recently, and most of them have a clear vision of other things they hope to accomplish within a couple decades. They just prefer to express this vision in terms of how much things suck now or how terrible it would be if they don't improve. You can say "let's create a greener world together", or you can say "we've gotta stop greedy fossil fuel corporations from ruining the planet", and nowadays people seem to consistently choose the latter.

The problem is the assumption of linearity. Things are good now but it seems to me things are getting better at a decelerating rate, and some trends have even started to reverse in the most westernized countries. Most of what’s getting better in the world is in places like Africa or Brazil, emerging economies. Things aren’t getting better for a lot of people in a lot of cities in America. People are fleeing la, sf, etc... Empires rise and fall, predictably.

>But growing income inequality has taught us that would never happen.

This is pretty huge non-sequitur. Income (in)equality has exactly nothing to do with post scarcity world or reducing suffering. Just because someone has more than you doesn't mean you don't have more than someone in your position 50 years ago or that you aren't suffering less.

Technology-wise we have focused on computers for so long that they are pretty much as solved as they are going to get, but we haven't made as huge leaps on other aspects. If your goal is to move the us to post scarcity world you have to come up with unlimited free and (relatively) clean power source. After that someone needs to figure out how to turn that unlimited energy into mass. Then someone needs to figure out how to 3D print things atom-by-atom using the previous technology. After that money loses all meaning and there is no longer income inequality.

> If your goal is to move the us to post scarcity world you have to come up with unlimited free and (relatively) clean power source.

Not a problem. Nuclear fusion. And before someone goes off on a tangent about, "It's only 10 years away for the past 60 years", that's because The Powers That Be won't give it - and by extension, pure science - the funding it needs to happen. The Defense Department budget increases by $80,000,000,000 for the 2021 Federal Budget. No one batted an eye. I guarantee you, if you throw $80 billion at fusion for 60 years, humanity will solve it. The pathetic $5 billion here and $2 billion there won't cut it. You have to sink real money into it.

> After that someone needs to figure out how to turn that unlimited energy into mass.

Funding. Once fusion is solved, throw $80 billion at this problem every year. See above.

> Then someone needs to figure out how to 3D print things atom-by-atom using the previous technology.

Funding. See above.

> After that money loses all meaning and there is no longer income inequality.

After that, we become a reputation-based economy, like Star Trek. It's about what you've done, not how much you have.

None of this will happen until we stop allowing single individuals to hoard enormous amounts of wealth that could never possibly be spent in their lifetimes.

It isn't about "someone has more than you". There used to be a belief that the rising tide of technology would lift all boats. What we have seen over the last few decades is that most (although not all) value of the productivity bonuses that technology provides has largely been captured by the people who own the capital. Instead of seeing middle class wage increases, shorter work weeks, more vacation time, or any real improvements to the working life of much of the population, we get smartphones and everything else goes to billionaires.

Even the 4 day work week which I have seen popping up on HN recently is often discussed in terms of how it improves productivity. It is less whether it is good for society and instead whether it is good for the bosses.

>There used to be a belief that the rising tide of technology would lift all boats.

> What we have seen over the last few decades is that most (although not all) value of the productivity bonuses that technology provides has largely been captured by the people who own the capital.

You debunked yourself in two sentences. Again just because someone is benefiting more than you doesn't mean you are also not benefiting. You can yell "eat the rich" all you want and how we should "get rid of billionaires", but fact remains that these people have the money for a reason and it is not that they inherited it from some old exploitation of people as many like to say.

Is it OK that Jeff has more money than God? Probably not, but are you really going to argue that he hasn't earn it? It would be lovely if Jeffy-boy would donate more to good causes, but this is more a symptom of how corrupt US government is (that he can mass this amount of wealth and pay zero taxes).

The suffering from income inequality seems to be mostly psychological from the realization that others have more. This is why they don't care about improving their own bottom line as much as they do about preventing others from having so much more.

For the lower class it isn't just psychological jealousy. We look forward at a future where we have to constantly work and never really have a life. I have to pay a landowner for the ability to sleep. It isn't fun.

There are now more ways than ever before to lift yourself out of poverty. World is full of companies looking for programmers. That is purely a skill you can cultivate regardless your physical abilities.

You seem to want a life where you don't have to do anything and everything is provided for you by others. In other words, you want to be the people that you're jealous of.

This isn't necessarily true.It pretty easy to see that some have become much richer while others have stood still or gone backwards, and it is not obvious that those that became richer are any more deserving than the losers. I suspect this is a much bigger problem than just envy of rich people.

I've done this experiment, and you should too. Ask the people who complain the loudest about income inequality the following question: if you could eliminate billionaires from existing but it wouldn't raise the standard of living of anyone else, would you? Every time the answer has been "yes." That tells you all you need to know.

Income inequality != it’s worse for the poor

Look at every metric of poverty or things affecting the poor (literacy, hunger, access to education) and its improved like no other time in history in the last 50 years.

Just because the rich got richer in the process might annoy you, but it benefitted a lot of others. What do you want? No income inequality and therefore everyone living in terrible conditions, or a large divide between rich and poor but things actually improving?

Due to hedonic adaptation, what matters is not the absolute state of existence, but the trajectory that that state takes throughout your life.

(a small positive slope in terms of life quality is much better than a negative or neutral slope at the same level - or even at a higher level).

And people underestimate the importance of relative standing as opposed to absolute. Ultimately, we are a packet of genes that are made to reproduce (with a brain attached). Relative standings matter a lot more than absolute quality of life as far as reproduction is concerned (and as far as our genes are concerned). The human brain is but a simple abstraction on top of those genetic drives.

> standings

What's bad is relative. Bad quality of life 10000 years ago meant something different than it did 500 years ago or 200 years ago. People will always look at how other people in their community live. A poor person today can't compare himself to a poor person 50 years ago. They compare themselves to the people they see around them. If you put an average person from today to a future where the average person lives forever and is in a constant state of happiness, would you say the person from today is doing well?

Or maybe instead of dreaming that one could see the stars, we instead started dreaming we could have super powers?

Or that we could be a billionaire that could build a flying armor suit?

Super hero movies are everywhere, to an almost absurd level.

Why self-insert as a traveler in the stars when you can instead self-insert as the all-powerful center of attention?

Makes sense given the rise of social media, too.

Everyone is a YouTuber, live steamer, superhero.

Superman has been a fixture of American culture since the 1940s, yet somehow, despite generations of children donning makeshift capes and engaging in flights of fantasy, we managed to land on the moon.

No one is watching superhero movies and abandoning their aspirations and ideals hoping they get superpowers. People watch superhero movies because they're entertaining, and because they grew up with the characters in comic book form.

Super hero comics were a small slice of the overall pie in 1940. Now they're the largest genre and saturate all media. Something changed.

>Now they're the largest genre and saturate all media.

Not true. They might be the biggest genre in terms of revenue, but look at American films released in the last couple of years [0,1] and you'll find the vast majority of them are not superhero movies. And while there is undeniably an insane amount of superhero merchandise out there, there aren't a ton of superhero books (outside of comics,) superhero albums, or even superhero video games either. So they're far from saturating even their own media, much less all media.



There is a fundamental difference between scifi and fantasy in that scifi is often achievable. Traveling to see the stars is something we as a society can strive to achieve. People who grow up with that dream never have to give it up and they become the scientists that push society forward in pursuit of that dream. The fantasy of superhero movies isn't possible. So what becomes of the kids who grew up dreaming of being Spider-Man?

>So what becomes of the kids who grew up dreaming of being Spider-Man?

Peter Parker is a science nerd. I'd bet plenty of people grew up to pursue science because they were inspired by the comics.

Also, the people who "grew up dreaming of being Spider-Man" also grew up watching Star Trek, and Star Wars, and probably reading SF novels, maybe playing D&D, etc. This is literally the demographic that was interested in math, science and computers (back when being interesting in computers was 'weird') in school while the "normies" were playing sports and banging cheerleaders and such.

When I was a kid watching TNG, I assumed that FTL propulsion and communication, shields, (non centrifugal) artificial gravity, and transporters were all plausible technologies, and that universal translators with CGI lip-sync was just a convenience for the sake of filming.

We’ve got the latter, the former was theoretically impossible when it was filmed — yet the impossible was still useful inspiration.

The counter argument is that Black Mirror is an insanely popular TV show that shows exactly what technology innovation could bring - but again, from a dystopian perspective.

Another comment on a recent thread pointed out that Black Mirror isn't so much speculating about the future as it is using tech storylines to expose things that make us uncomfortable about the present. The depressing content decades ago was about nuclear war, but now the source of people's anxiety isn't just faraway Soviets; it's pervasive surveillance within their own communities, corrupt politicians selling them out, and the inability to reach the standard of living of their parents.

I could come up with a dozen forward-leaning SF and technology narratives off the cuff, and I bet you can too. In fact, many authors have already done this and continue to publish great speculative fiction.

I think the problem -- and I speculate here -- is that the US media machine enjoys the downtrodden narrative. There's limited room at the top, and they're funding what they like. Not always necessarily what sells.

I don't think science fiction would fail to sell. I would certainly consume it. You would. Look at Star Wars and other popular science fiction. Dune. The problem is that nobody seems to want to film this stuff at volume. We're in a supply side drought.

I blame Hollywood for not funding their dreamers. They'd rather make depressing shit that tells people they can't reach the stars. Today's films are more gritty and human, but they're so stifling and boxed in.

(fwiw, I'm personally trying to change this, but it's a tough road ahead. I can't stand the lack of good fantasy and science fiction.)

We do not seem to live in an era that could produce a work of science fiction like Star Trek: The Next Generation in which humanity has mostly solved its major internal problems - racism, scarce resources, political discord, etc. Who would believe something like this nowadays? It increasingly seems like we’re living in the dystopian narrative of Marshall Brain’s “Manna”.

The average person doesn't have any appreciation for how impressive modern technology is. I recently started using google photos and I was blown away by how good the button is that identifies things in a photo. I took a photo of the back side of a LCD PCB and google was able to work out not just that this was a photo of a PCB, it was able to show me product listings for the same PCB when there was essentially nothing but the placement of the black chips and a connector strip to use for identification.

I tried to show this off to some people and their responses were "Of course it can do that, they have all that data".

XKCD did a thing on it years ago when this was still out of reach for developers https://xkcd.com/1425/

I had a similar experience when I searched on Google Photos and realized that it can find text in pictures. I know that the technology exists, but it still surprised me how it has been added to a product so seamlessly.

I searched for "wifi" and found many pictures of posters with information to connect to free wifi in museums, offices, hotels.

I remember the show. I remember an episode which showed extinguishing fire from a helicopter.

Technology was magical, but also there was a belief that technologists would be calling the shots. Early computer users were all nerds. Operating systems, games, utility programs required you to be pretty technical. Turn-based strategy was a major genre. Today even RTS is seen as a niche. I remember an early SF book with title along the lines "Tower of light" which called the big boss The Programmer. There were also books like "Rendez-Vous with Rama". Today, the goal is to make computer games and computers in general as accessible as possible. Tablets and touch screens are ALL about accessibility.

I propose an alternate explanation: reality has shown that programmers, inventors, scientists are often just pawns. The decision makers are elsewhere. There's much resentment towards "sales&marketing" departments in companies. We techies often just do what we're told, we realize someone else's vision. NASA's budget gets cut. Email spam is outrageous, spambots run rampant. SOMEONE writes these spam senders, captcha solvers, spambots! Cynical programmers. And nothing is more enduring in programming than a "temporary solution".

The respect towards scientists and science has been dropping for a while. Some of it is because of problems with reproduction and peer reviews, but largely people just don't believe in scientific method. By contrast, psychology degrees and charisma are extremely valued. You don't need a good product if you can manipulate the feelings of clients (now called "consumers") or strike a deal that every new PC comes with your operating system and you get paid for it. People just assume they got it "for free with the computer". Fact-based arguments are usually less convincing that arguments from personal experience.

In some areas, like History, "publish or perish" no longer holds. You can perish anyway. Nowadays you need to do a lot more than that.


Personally I'm very impressed by discoveries in topics like role of gut bacteria or fungi. Neural networks can do very nice stuff.

Yes, but the short of it is:

1.) There is a ton of content that is easier to make and sell than scifi

2.) The Studios and TV networks of the day competed mainly with each other, not with everybody who has a camera on their phone. That means even if the number of scifi content produced from the stations was the same as in the 90s, it still would be a smaller piece of the cake overall.

3.) The fundamental problem is a hyper-competition for people's attention, because we created a web where that is basically run by advertisment-revenue. What we see here is what a unregulated free market competing for people's brains results in: Polemic low quality but high engagement trash that is easy to make, and makes anybody feel right and good.

4.) Trolling only works if you have someone to troll. The (very American) idea of having two sides to everything (as opposed to say: more) has been exported as globally as the underlying fictional premise for the last 50 years at least. Just: Everybody believes they are are the good ones, if not for the sole reason that they want to be the good ones and they don't discuss anything from the "evil" side, just like their fictional idols didn't. Discussion is for intellectuals and academics who have no idea how things get done.

So the right question is one of incentives. Nowadays everybody has the incentive to produce the next outraging video where you basically just filmed a talking head:

Studios/Stations are drained for money, so everything that brings ad revenue without costing much is welcome.

Platforms didn't find any other way of generating income, so anything that brings ad revenue is welcome.

Users don't have the funds and skills to create scifi and if they had the footballification of politics (through Rubert Murdoch mostly) gave them the idea they don't even want it. Ah, and anything that brings ad revenue is welcome.

Just ban advertisement networks.

> Just ban advertisement networks.

That seems a line that could be added to John Lennon's "Imagine".

Imagine there's no advertisement. It's easy if you try. No more click-bait for us. The limit only the sky

> There is a ton of content that is easier to make and sell than scifi

There is a lot of sci-fi being released. But, they tend to be more of dystopian then "everything will be great" kind of sci-fi.

"Everything is great" makes a pretty boring story, though.

> Do people have lost hope? Do people want to just watch negative content?

No, their priorities changed. American kids want to be Youtubers and Tiktokers. They want followers and likes. [1]

Those aspirations do not require any vision or aspiration for the future. It just requires that you manage to get attention - which political trolling achieves easily (see: Twitter or Reddit). Women - and some men - have the highly-incentivized option of achieving this through varying degrees of pornography, but for most men and many women, political trolling is the easiest and fastest way of achieving this goal.


[1] https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/07/american-kids-would-...

No it's because these are professions which actually make you rich enough to achieve dreams like "maybe not being bankrupted by healthcare" and "owning a family home".

I don't think 12 year olds are thinking about healthcare or buying a family home. They're worrying about whether they have the best Fortnite skins and how many people follow them on social media.

Kids who grow up around family members who can't afford medicine, doctors, food or their rent or mortgage become acutely aware of those things at a young age. Poverty, hunger and the threat/reality of homelessness make impressions, to say the least.

Poor 12 year olds are definitely aware that they don’t live in a house, or have their own bedroom, or go on vacations like other kids at school, or go to the dentist when all the other kids have braces.

I consciously avoided sports and activities where I might break bones or get injured because I knew the family was barely making it, and I had a sibling 6 years younger that needed to be taken care of too.

> When I was a kid, TV was full of content like "Beyond 2000" were the general population was introduced to possibilities for the future, to what technology will bring to our lives, to what possibilities were out there.

How many people were watching 'Beyond 2000' compared to how many people were listening to political talk radio and watching Fox News et al?

A conditioned mind (of an unrealized one) needs to be engaged in some activity to feel worthwhile (one of the definitive ways of measuring your progress in meditation is to check how long you can sit with just yourself without engaging in any activity [0]).

It's also a fact that only few seem to demonstrate interest in creative/selfless pursuits at any point in time if you see in our history. For most people, the worthwhile activity had been working to survive – to make ends-meet somehow. (You'd not hear people in poor places even today having these mental problems of depression/etc.)

In last few decades, more and more people on the planet (especially in western world) have gotten material comforts which were only available to very rich/powerful people. So the struggle for the basic stuff, which used to consume one's life for most people, is simply no longer there.

A conditioned mind without meaningful activity is a devil workshop. It rejoices in negativity, gossips etc naturally then. Social media has given a platform to such mind and with follows/retweets/likes as added bonus that give social justification and encouragement of its negativity.

0: https://os.me/eight-signs-of-progress-in-meditation/

> You'd not hear people in poor places even today having these mental problems of depression/etc.

Poor people have both mental health problems and depression. I dont know why you think people in poor places dont have depression or mental health issues. If anything, poor places tend to have these worst. They also happen to have worst consequences on the person having these issues.

> It's also a fact that only few seem to demonstrate interest in creative/selfless pursuits at any point in time if you see in our history.

That's not a fact, not at all. Nearly everyone has had some creative or selfless hobby; that they didn't all change the world (and enter the history books) is quite beside the point. It's a very low view of people to take, quite superior and baseless, to be honest. Look closer.

> For most people, the worthwhile activity had been working to survive – to make ends-meet somehow. (You'd not hear people in poor places even today having these mental problems of depression/etc.)

Working to survive is no longer necessary. Only forced inequality makes it so. We have the technology and resources to provide for everyone. The vestigial cultural propaganda involved in making people afraid to not work is a major reason why people tweet blind bullshit, instead of living fulfilling lives.

I agree that meaningful activity is important; but have a read of Bullshit Jobs to see the kind of busy-work people are given. Look around and realise how bad inequality has gotten, for no other reason than because Extreme Wealth is a vicious feedback loop in unrestricted capitalist society.

> the struggle for the basic stuff, which used to consume one's life for most people, is simply no longer there.

It seems you're invoking that horrible and untrue myth; that creativity comes from suffering and deprivation. It's not true.

Holding on to anger, suffering, greed, pain etc, is not necessary to be creative, fulfilled, free.

> A conditioned mind without meaningful activity is a devil workshop. It rejoices in negativity, gossips etc naturally then. Social media has given a platform to such mind and with follows/retweets/likes as added bonus that give social justification and encouragement of its negativity.

You're not entirely wrong, but I don't see how you can seriously propose "working to survive" as a superior alternative. We are very luck that Da Vinci, Tesla, Fuller, Ramanujan, Van Gogh (...insert literally millions of more examples here) didn't need to "work to survive".

Shows like that were made by people who were born post-WW2, grew up during counter culture, and raised kids during the cold war. It impacted their approach to problems, but it was just another iteration of human history.

A common theme I've seen repeated online is when younger people complain how things are worse today than before, and the older generation says the younger ones have no idea how easy they have it.

I suspect, however, that political trolling has always been twice as popular as positivity within a standard deviation. People wanting to make positive shows like you're remembering are just as numerous today as before, but there's no longer only 20 channels to pitch your show to.

Imagine the beauty of watching a herd of animals move in response to danger. Now imagine if every animal on the edge of the herd had a way to share the dangers they see to the entire herd as they see them, and could see the herd response in return.

Consider that, and then consider if you would like to continue participating in those platforms.

Something definitely changed though. If you take the Vietnam era, even though there was a activist element protesting the war, the ‘other side’ were considered a ‘silent majority’. Think about that for a second. That both sides actually didn’t engage in politics.

As trite as it is to suggest, but the media and tech social media normalized new behavior, for better or worse (most likely a weird combination of both).

> Do people have lost hope? Do people want to just watch negative content?

Most people are too tired of the never ending rat race. They use content to escape from reality of their lives. The alternate fantasy world where everything is blamed on incompetent leaders is appealing. And deservedly so.

I don't think that explains what changed, if anything. Life has always had work and drudgery. By most metrics life is better than it ever has been.

I suspect the metrics that matter however paint a different picture.

And I am being intentionally vague because I can't put my finger on it — maybe a sense of uncertainty and anxiety about the future, about the present. I believe a metric measuring something like that would show that life is not better than it was 50 years ago.

Vonnegut wrote repeatedly about the harm that mass media & recording had done to certain important ways people exist socially. It must have been on his mind quite a bit. Notably, the social (and economic, for that matter) value of "small" talent. Being able to sing a little. Being a pretty-good dancer. A fair storyteller. Decent at a sport. All of that's worth way less when everyone can experience the best the last 100 years of the whole damn globe has to offer at the press of a button. The cost is the devastation of a whole bunch of ways of relating to one another socially and deriving personal value, on a small scale. Whatever survives of those small talents withers into quirks, lonesome hobbies, and pathologies, or simply dies entirely. All this media-plenty is great, sure, but it presses on us and molds us with inhuman scale. We see—we can hardly avoid—the greatest others can be, and are less, ourselves.

I think he'd find Web, in 2021, horrifying. I don't think it's implausible to speculate that he might see it as socially apocalyptic. Like social Ice-9—an unstoppable, deadly force, wrecking the globe forever, but originally a human invention.

An interesting metric would be to see how many children are better off than their parents. My parents did all they could to achieve this and they succeeded. But if you look at the current state of climate, housing and wage stagnation it somehow seems harder as a goal.

I think it has more to do with a mismatch of expectations. Gen X and onwards were raised to beleive that that they can be anything they want and have whatever they want.

If you look at the home ownership rate in the US, it is about the same but up over the 1960. Homes are also much bigger and nicer than they were.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Home-ownership_in_the_United_S...

It's not the current home ownership I am concerned with, it's home ownership in 20 years. I think the the current home owners road in on the tail of the boom.

Home ownership is a factor but there are also things like: do the kids have a less stressful/dangerous/damaging to the body job. Are they able to save enough money to be able to not rely on retirement alone, and so on.

> By most metrics life is better than it ever has been.

I imagine people whose wages haven't risen meaningfully in the last 20 years would disagree. So would people who can only get wage increases by constantly switching jobs.

People are steadily getting out of poverty [1], living longer [2], can afford more and more education [3]. Things like access to drinking water [4] and electricity [5] are also improving.

So, yes, world in theese important ways is better than ever before now. And imagining future is needed to continue making it better.

[1] https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/distribution-of-populatio... [2] https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/life-expectancy?time=1946... [3] https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/mean-years-of-schooling-l... [4] https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/share-of-the-population-w... [5] https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/share-of-the-population-w...

It's a bit more complicated.

A lot of people in the wealthier countries are objectively worse off than their parents in ways that matter to them, and that's a relatively recent change.

Many young people are seeing older people, including their own parents, with homes, jobs and comparative stability, and don't see the same possibilities for themselves.

Even having more income, for the lucky ones that do, doesn't make up for that. Home prices have risen faster than wages. You can argue that numerous other metrics are in their favour, but that's not enough to make people feel optimistic.

I think that thread was about USA specifically. It compares past American production with current.

In fairness, there really hasn't been any delivery on those promises. It's 2021, people still work long hours in boring jobs and live in houses. TVs have gotten bigger and flstter and everyone has one in their pocket now. But if anything people have less leisure, disposable income, relationships or fun than they did back in the 80s...

In the UK we had Tomorrow's World [1] on the BBC, a must watch for any budding futurist. It was a pretty breathless experience to get some audio/video mixing software I was involved with demoed on the show in the late 1990's despite having stopped watching it a decade earlier.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tomorrow%27s_World

What's more appealing and addictive than hope is victory.

The addiction of the never ending "struggle" against the other side is rooting in the three step psychological process of Outrage --> Hate --> Victory.

Step 1. Outrage: Set the table for an outrage - some grave injustice that is occurring that can/will ultimately impact the reader. Hyperbole, cherry picking data, misinterpreting data, or even falsifying information are functional if you can do this in an echo chamber. This step creates the emotional investment in the event.

Step 2. Hate: Choose a target to blame for the outrage in step 1. Again, if it exists in an echo chamber, the writer can functionally use ancillary data, tenuous/indirect relationships, or flawed logic to tie the target to to the event above. What's important here is channeling the emotion generated in step 1. Emotion is important because it make the reader immune to entertaining opposing viewpoints.

Step 3. Gratification: Mobilizing pressure against the target is a bonus, but what's really needed is to be able to paint the outcome as a victory, even if it isn't. You can highlight how the "good team" actually won in some segment or district or demographic, and above all give the reader the sense of victory (or inevitable victory). It's always advisable to paint the target as in decay, aging, or fundamentally self-destructive, such that even their victory is short lived and self-consuming.

Then repeat.

...and if you do this independently with both or multiple "sides", you've basically mechanized a political system that has no material path for improvement. No nuanced debate takes place because you've convinced both sides that it's "all or nothing", and that victory is reliable. They are always winning - yet constantly outraged.

Any of this sound familiar?

I remember "Beyond 2000" it was in Polish TV in so called "Educational Television". I loved the whole timeslot, but later on it was getting shorter and shorter and finally disappeared or blended in. There were a couple of Polish programs like Kitchen [1], where a father sat in a kitchen with his kids and presented various experiments discussing some physical phenomena. Or Visitors from Mathplanet (Przybysze z Matplanety) [2] a children program about mathematics.

It was a time when I actually wanted to have access to cable TV for Discovery Channel, my friends discussed programs from there. Now I couldn't care less.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1indpuiztw4

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSWnQLSvj8k

> Do people have lost hope? Do people want to just watch negative content?

I think the answer is no and yes respectively - wider adoption of Internet rather dug down towards the bottom of the barrel and merely uncovered the nature of the humanity, that >80% of us are naturally negative, hateful, stupid, naive, etc., judging by standards of media in the past.

Though I do not like the state of online world, I don't think it's constructive to criticize the straw man on their stupidity - what you are looking at is an innocent and average man, it's up to us the woke to find ways to devise ways to distill wisdom out of eternal flame of echo chambering rages, a way that are better than in the past where those voices were simply suppressed.

I loved that show! It, along with modern marvels, 321 contact, and a few others had a big part in me becoming an engineer.

Or there are actors faking views and buying clicks to sway perceived popular opinion down the drain

yes. people have lost hope. the US life expectancy is declining year over year. wealth accrued by young people is declining compared to prev generations. housing is unaffordable nationwide now. education, healthcare, and housing costs are eating all productivity gains. people choose "vices" because poverty is literally painful.

fix the material conditions and people will want the future again.

Imo, our capitalism has reached a kind of saturation point, a hyper efficient local maximum. The depression, despair and anxiety in social media simply reflects the conditions of the bottom half of the population. Capitalism can't get itself unstuck from this state and its usual solution is a big war. I think we'll see this at the next recession in 10 years.

Maybe I'm out of the loop, but I honestly don't see what any of that has to do with "capitalism." Would you mind connecting those dots?

I understand the existence of social ills: depression, despair, anxiety. I understand the amplifying effect caused by the democratization of content. But how do those things tie back to economics?

Do other capitalist states have the same problems? Does Canada? Does Sweden? Are things better in non-capitalist countries such as Laos or Nambia?

Is this a reference to the Easterlin paradox? Is is more accurate to frame the problem as being unhappy with success and wealth, vs "capitalism?"

> Are things better in non-capitalist countries such as Laos or Nambia?

Laos and Namibia are capitalist countries. The only two non-capitalist countries that I know are Cuba (and I'm not even sure about that) and North Korea.

Both are being suffocated by the big capitalist forces for tens of years, so it's impossible to really assess if they're doing better or worse.

Like one of our Russian politics said: "USA strangle them with one hand and empty their pockets using another hand". Hard to say how they'd fare if they weren't strangled. E.g. before they isolated North Korea it was doing much better than South Korea.

My personal interpretation is that capitalism as an ideology started to fail when big actors started to sell « free products ».

Rules of free market can not apply when some actors starts to accept currencies such as your privacy.

I think we are training an entire generation to get everything for free.

And this, even for the liberal ideology, is a transfer of the power from the states to big companies. Because « free » stuff has always been the monopoly of states (for the obvious reason that states represent people via the democratic systems). And if you are not the client, you are the product, and moreover, you have no more free choice.

I’m not an anthropologist and that’s my current mood of thinking. I’m ok if you want to explain me I’m wrong.

For real

People take everything for granted now. There's no "future" anymore.

People dwell too much into politics (where it's mostly political BS of both sides) and "feel good" actions (even if it's just "feel hate")

Societal discussions are of course important but it has become more of a screaming match (to that I blame the R/Conservative side more than the other - but both sides are to blame) whereas technical innovation has been relegated to the backend. Or it is at best "taken for granted" (case of Covid vaccines)

Though on the topic of YT, there is some Discovery-quality level material (I mean, there's literally some Discovery programs there)

> When I was a kid, people loved these programs that offered a glimpse into possible futures, kids wanted to be astronauts and technology was magical.

Optimism for the future is a characteristic of a young culture and western culture is aging and decadent.

> YouTube channels that show this kind of futuristic content, but views are in the 100K never millions. Do people have lost hope? Do people want to just watch negative content?

Wait you’re drawing a conclusion where there isn’t. The content on Youtube isn’t what people want to see, but what Youtube wants you to see. There are hundreds of thousands of Youtubers with 20k-people channels of extremely good quality, but you’ll never discover them organically, and the search for “futuristic content” (or anything really) will only return pre-approved channels, generally BBC or bad quality journalism which rehash other videos and slap a commentary and big text on top.

Assuming that Youtube returns the videos with the most clicks is a projection onto Youtube of your assumption that they are optimizing for clicks.

Maybe they optimize for sleepiness, maybe they optimize for a certain political leaning, you do not know.

>There are hundreds of thousands of Youtubers with 20k-people channels of extremely good quality, but you’ll never discover them organically

would you mind sharing some of these channels? I agree that it's hard to find them organically, so I tend to ask people whenever I can.

> The content on Youtube isn’t what people want to see, but what Youtube wants you to see.

You're suggesting more intent than Youtube actually has. Youtube wants you to see more monetizable Youtube. Same as CNN. Its main bias it to get you to watch more CNN.

Tech companies and studios are determining what's presented to the masses and it's not entirely if even primarily concerned with what makes money.

For example, PewDiePie trended ~40x more in Canada and even non-English countries than he did in the US - a difference that was not always the case, and resulted from a choice made by YouTube for whatever reason. PewDiePie makes YouTube a lot of money.

Although I'm not entirely convinced Google's reason is pushing their ideology. They may simply be planning for a time when 230 is reformed and they are held responsible for content or cannot censor based on ideology, in either case resulting in them purging most user-generated content and leaving only mainstream, company-backed content.

>The content on Youtube isn’t what people want to see, but what Youtube wants you to see (...)

Not in my experience. I don't know how you're curating your subscriptions, but I stumble across good quality content all the time.

> "You can call it trolling, some people call it 'dunking'," Mr Rathje said.

I remember when first using internet forums, a "troll" was someone who posted stuff in discussions for no other purpose than to wind people up, as if it was a sport. "Feeding the trolls" was heavily frowned upon because replying to trolls made you part of the problem. Trolling only works when people engage and post about how outraged they are.

It's interesting how people were wise to trolling before social media. It's made even worse now with the media, even misusing the world "troll" in their articles while they help to feed them and create careers out of trolling.

When was the original definition of troll forgotten along with the "don't feed the trolls" mantra? How do we bring it back so people realise they're part of the problem when they reply to obvious trolling?

I think the term is a bit overloaded in this case. The examples given in the article describe commentary that the intended audience would be sympathetic towards. The content is divisive, but the audience is on the same side.

I suppose "trolls" (as in "feeding the trolls") would denote folks that create divisive content that is purposefully antagonistic towards the audience.

Internet culture seemed to change pretty rapidly like 8ish years ago? Trolling took in its own new definition. So did meme, it bothers me a little that meme became an image with white text on it. Watching it evolve from a dog with a rainbow background to what it became today was interesting in a way

I'd call '08 or '09 the beginning of a 3rd wave for the Web (not the Internet—I'd say it's had ~5 waves).

There was the early Web of directories and academics and early search engines with only a little commercial activity and a relatively small user-base; then the mid-period web starting, hell, I dunno, around the 2K bubble, roughly, dominated by (an apparently-benevolent and basically a force-for-good, kinda, at the time) Google, with home-Internet connections rapidly increasing in both count and amount of use, and normal people starting to get used to entering credit card numbers to order stuff online (I guess call this the e-commerce era, if you like); then we got the mobile-phone-and-social-media web (this one). It's very different from the earlier ones. It's overwhelmingly commercial in a way that even wave 2 wasn't. New content generation rates are off-the-charts high, but the "small" indie parts of the web are way less visible than they used to be and can be nearly impossible to find. Much of the tech is eaten with what we'd have considered, in wave 2, spyware and spam-websites, even the "legitimate" stuff. The Web isn't a place you go (a desk in your house, at the library, whatever) but is everywhere now. Smartphones changed everything.

Your "8ish years ago" fits with when that shift to my wave-3-Web was pretty much complete.

Well the rainbow background meme was already "appropriated", if compared to the original definition when meme term was coined. Barely even related to it, that's sort of how language works though.

>Internet culture seemed to change pretty rapidly like 8ish years ago?

Gamergate swallowed all of the internet.

I’m glad you were here to say it before I had to say the G-word. Somehow, GG was the inane internet drama that never ended. Looking back, I wonder if there was something specific to GG that made it stick or if it simply was the one that happened to stick, but some permanent drama was inevitable.

I think it was whenever the smartphone really caught on, maybe 2011/2012.

i don’t think there’s any difference. the goal is always attention. maybe in prior internet world the best attention you could get would be a lot of replies in your special segment of myphpbb and get a 10 page post. now you can get your tweet screenshotted and and submitted to reddit or whatever and know your “dunk” got 10k upticks - same result you get attention

The trolls became professional opinion havers on Twitter and millions of fools started amplifying their message

How do professional opinion havers on Twitter make a living? Normally "influencers" get paid to feature products/services on their social media or YouTube adverts, I don't see that happening with these trolls. Someone must be funding them.

A lot of random blue checks on Twitter are journalists.

If they're journalists then are they really internet trolls?


I'd say that Clickbait is an evolution of internet trolling, chasing engagement with outrageous claims.

So in that regard, yes absolutely many online journalists are internet trolls.

That doesn't sound like what the parent comment [1] was talking about. There are some fairly obvious differences between people post political garbage on social media all day and those who are looking to drive traffic to their website that serves ads.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27587768

Large numbers of journalists and/or pundits are internet trolls

I assumed they were all freelancing.

I have a feeling the reason that quote makes little sense is because it's a portion of a multi-sentence answer to a question that is not included in the article.

Social media brought in masses and masses usually have hard time separating the forest from the tree. Previously people saw through the guise of trolls easier and engaged with them less. Now people assume that any slight critique means that you are The Enemy (which is now synonym with troll and bot) and you disagree with them on every single issue.

A troll and trolling were already being misused back in the early 90s on Usenet and MUDs. That ship has sailed.

Let's create a forum where we mandate strict communication style that rules out emotions, subjectivism and sticks only to pure information.

Trolling existed before the internet. It is just satire.

And the reason this issue exists is, as I think you imply, is why trolling is effective and why satire still exists as a form of comedy: people are usually totally unconscious of their own biases, particularly when they are examining the bias of others (particularly today, admitting that you are biased is a form of self-hate when so much energy is devoted to finding biases in others...note that people equate struggle sessions with greater equality, it is all about other people).

I will also say, and this is unappreciated: people who talk a lot about trolling often do not get satire at a fundamental level, they lack any ability to introspect or find humour in their own irrationality or that of others, everything is just black and white (and I will venture: afaik, this forum is also the largest congregation of such people anywhere on the internet...yc is the white whale for trolls), and there is really nothing you can do about this. Again, it is why trolling exists.

Satire is one of the most important forms of comedy. There is no other form of comedy that is more closely associated with political discussion. The internet has been a wellspring for this kind of humour, it is wonderful (it is no surprise that the same people who complain about trolling are also vaguely intolerant of anyone with opposing political views to their own, anyone who opposes them is a troll and must be removed from the internet...again, this thinking predates social media by a number of years, the only change is people thinking that social media has changed anything).

Trolling can mean many things, not just satire.

Probably a more annoying form of trolling is when your opponent deliberately shifts around the frame of conversation in order to make it meaningless. Formally known as "pigeon chess".

It's usually kids who see themselves as masters of psychology for the shrewd manipulation they're pulling on people (pretending they're engaged in the substance of a conversation, while they aren't).

That's not the only definition being misused. It really seems the "divide" is creating new vernaculars or jargon, that could eventually lead to different subsets of English. This is what happens when people can't hold a conversation without having strong feelings.

"Dont feed the trolls" never worked to stop harassement. In those situation and in politics, this rule silences everyone except the trolls.

Only people who remain expressing their opinions are trolls and victims are blamed.

Not feeding the trolls almost always worked because they'd get bored and go away when no one too their bait. You can still see it in action on smaller message boards and IRC servers if you use them, where an idiot will come in and try to stir up trouble but people just keep on topic and ignore them. They leave for the next site once they figure out they're not gonna get a reaction.

It also worked perfectly in driving away people who were persistent targets of that trolling. Those people simply left too, because that was only option they had.

The most prominent example was Kathy Sierra. And that is known only because she was know person. Less famous people just disappeared without anyone noticing, because that was only option for them.

I was very ready to suggest this must be an old article, but no it really is only six hours old. I suppose doing good statistical work takes time, but this feels like the obvious truth that every single product manager has known since KPIs were invented for social media engagement - anger and fury are the best for engagement.

This isn't news either. Ryan Holliday's "Trust me, I'm lying" talks about this in depth and was published in 2012. I am quite sure folks before him discussed this as well.

We could fix social media tomorrow if we disabled resharing/retweeting/whatever and removed likes, make timelines/feeds strictly linear time based. You want to be an epic troll? Fine, copy and paste your content in. That's enough of a barrier that social media would go back to being reasonably decent.

> We could fix social media tomorrow if we disabled resharing/retweeting/whatever and removed likes, make timelines/feeds strictly linear time based.

There is too much revenue to be made in not fixing the problem. Witness the pushback with Apple “only” warning users about tracking data and the force with which Facebook tried to push back.

I don’t believe there is a solution. Social media companies have weaponized fundamental rights (freedom of speech) and human emotion for profit. You can’t minimize the harm without infringing on those rights, and social media will fight to the end to enable what engagement looks like on their terms.


The 'abundance of revenue' is why banning reshares/retweets change will only happen if forced through via legislation.

Tobacco companies would sell cigarettes to kids if we let them. Car manufactures fought mandatory seat belt regulations for decades too...

Just tax ad revenue. Really really tax it. Outlawing/prohibiting things in the west is too hard. But we're good at lobbying and taxing things.

Next thing you know there will be an ad industry bailout, like the California $100 million weed bailout.

If you keep using taxes as punishment then people will perceive being taxed only as being punished.

> There is too much revenue to be made in not fixing the problem

This is always the excuse, but it's really not true. Once you put ethical constrains on business, new soutions arise and then people start to see the difference. This is what's happening with renewable energy. Social media needs to start innovating in this area.

That's for anyone who's not in advertising. Advertising and marketing are perhaps some of the scummiest businesses on the planet at the low end because they plain do not care about anything but user-response rates.

And however you slice it, Google, Facebook and Twitter are all in the advertising business - that's where they make the bulk of their money. Amazon, ironically, kind of isn't (but has been more then happy to not fix it's SKU/fakes problem for years).

At the end of the day when someone wants to make a change at any of those organizations, it's the advertisers who are pointing to charts of potential lost revenue and reminding everyone who's salary is paid for by who.

Good point, but I can still see the possibility of somef feature where people are at least warned about or have to go through some disclaimer when posting on certain subject matters, and this causes the whole platform to be more positive, open minded, and improving the lives of people in significant ways.

All current major platforms are getting a lot of heat for being so corrosive to society in some form or another, I think soon there should be more demand for more wholesome social media sites that do some innovation in terms of how they reward attention, but I agree, advertising is the lowest form of business model or whatever it is.

I think the solution is a legal one. I think laws around users being able to delete their content, around tracking, and protecting people's jobs from social media pile-ons would go a long way in detoxifying the internet.

I’m pretty sure I’d find that way less appealing than the current situation.

I want to see a curated feed of what’s most interesting (as gauged by any system that can approximately judge for me, and a good one is what other people engaged with).

I discover other Twitter accounts to follow via sharing/commenting/follower graphs.

It’s why I read the top news (/news) here and not /newest. I don’t want to miss my cousin’s cute baby pic or my niece’s graduation pics or other popular posts just because trolls forced a order by id desc onto a weak product owner.

If other people get wrapped around axles over political, religious, or cultural posts, so be it. I go to social media to see interesting things.

Yeah I tried using Mastodon for a while (decentralized Twitter clone that happens to only show posts in linear time order), and I quickly got sick of it because I almost purely saw the posts from the most active people I followed, and almost never the meatier posts from the people I followed who posted less often. I have this issue much less on Twitter with its algorithmic feed so I went back to Twitter. I'm baffled by how often I see people espouse linear timelines over algorithmic timelines like it's obviously superior; if they've actually tried it and liked it then they must follow a very different kind of mix of people than I do.

> I almost purely saw the posts from the most active people I followed

I'm very careful to select people to follow who won't drown out my timeline. Sometimes I come across someone with interesting content, but they tweet several dozen times a day, so I just don't follow them.

> We could fix social media tomorrow if we disabled resharing/retweeting/whatever and removed likes

What about votes? How are upvotes different from likes? It's just different terminology.

So HN's system is unique since only you can see your "score", and a post maxes out at -4. I think it works well since you can derive some info about how useful a post is, and downvotes are rare. It can still lead to people trying to maximize score instead of content.

With a system like reddit which is mostly visible, brigading and using downvotes as a weapon is much much more prevalent and probably could do with either tweaking or removal.

There is some feedback you want from votes, which is something like the upvote to downvote ratio as a measure of controversy for a given post.

> So HN's system is unique since only you can see your "score"

That's true for individual comments, but there's a total karma score that everyone can see. And even for individual comments you can see when they're downvoted.

> and a post maxes out at -4.

A tweet maxes out at 0. You can't have negative likes.

> It can still lead to people trying to maximize score instead of content.

Sure. You have that tradeoff in any system. If you don't have anything that is in some sense a "score" at all, people might not particpate at all, or not put any effort into it, if you do have a score then people might try to maximize it in ways you don't like.

Fascinatingly, a similar effect shows up in science. "Science Studies Most Likely to Be Wrong Are the Most Widely Read":


From the first paragraph of the usnews article:

> Studies that can't be verified and may be untrue are much more likely to be cited in the media because they tend to be more interesting

"Interesting" -- ha!

A media business knows its clientele and shovels useful fodder to fill the clients' daily trough. The difference today is that people carry a portable trough with them everywhere.

What is "interesting" to people varies, but what is profitable to media business is clear: purveying ignorance is more lucrative and sustains marketshare.

This may be the biggest socio-political problem of the era. Democracy depends on the success of education and social discourse. I think people _do_ want education and healthy discourse... but their worse impulses are being nourished.

Even old-style media companies knew how to turn nonsense into profit. There is a clientele for prepackaged, facile ignorance. It's the art of propaganda.

Social media has revealed that significant numbers of people proudly maintain and propagate brutish thinking. The modern educational system seems helpless to counteract this phenomenon.

Using modern portable tools, it has become easier than ever to propagate ignorance. It's not just the people, though. It's the people and the "corporate citizens" who are looting civilisation.

Veritasium made a video about this: https://youtu.be/42QuXLucH3Q

They make a great point that modern media is about generating addiction.

...Outrage --> Hate --> Gratification --> Outrage --> Hate...

Step 1. Outrage: Strike the audience with some gross injustice - true or not - it's always useful to exaggerate. Make sure to use an echo chamber so no one can diffuse the emotion with a different perspective.

Step 2. Hate: Define a target. Demonize this target to create an emotional investment by the reader. Pile on ancillary "facts" to give the illusion of rigor. Truth is irrelevant as few will research independently.

Step 3. Follow up with some form of "justice" (usually better to do this at a later update). It doesn't matter if the subject was really hurt, as long as you can make it appear that the "bad guys" actually won in some way.


While Facebook and Twitter are definitely to blame, we should also look at the smartphone for creating this dystopia.

Today, the smartphone makes it very easy to go the internet and shout at someone just because you had a bad minute or a bad second. It also makes it very easy to produce and consume multi media.

Maybe its just me but I feel like the Internet used to be more wholesome in the pre smartphone era.

A big reason that I keep coming back to HN is that it does not allow any images and videos.

Tools like Twitter have turned into an outrage sharing machine, perhaps unintentionally. Everything is a snippet, a short context and evidence free photo or video followed by lots of anonymous outrage.

There is also this virtual lynching on such platforms of often unlucky people without any due process, very primal. It's addictive but not healthy.

Many similarly depressing results: https://ledger.humanetech.com/

This a huge part of the problem.

It's cheaper and easier to hook kids with gamification, endless scrolls, and dopamine hacks than it is to inspire them with science and creative storytelling.

Low effort, high reward. And addiction.

This is relevant

It's because insulting the rival camp prompts insults in the opposite direction and now the first camp feels obliged to respond. The art of trolling is finding a topic that offends the biggest number of participants. The curve of engagement, i.e. the number of agitated people over time, probably looks like a gaussian. This would be an interesting topic to research, something that would make social studies a science.

> insulting the rival camp prompts insults in the opposite direction and now the first camp feels obliged to respond

In my experience, the two (or more) camps are often not communicating. A totem of a position representing the other side is attacked, with the trolling responses imputed versus observed. A good fraction of the politically-oriented meme communities on Reddit, for example, could happily continue through the heat death of the universe without ever requiring any input from the "other side."

One big thing I've noticed is that the language used is also completely different. The words different camps use simply do not mean the same thing. Yet people try and communicate (argue) regardless.

Yeah, successful trolling more than anything is about being in the right place at the right time. A good troll casts a spark on a pile of dry leaves, a bad troll takes a blowtorch to a pile of damp logs.

It is easy to understand why social networks promote such content, user engagement is the simplest metric for optimization.

But why do readers prefer negativity? It comes down to ego. Confirming the bias that "they" are wrong, stupid and corrupted gives "us" right to feel superior.

Not sure what could help here. Maybe teaching children to recognize their own biases?

Trolling/gossiping etc are basically junk food for the mind; its not something that should be encouraged, is not good for the health, can be somewhat liberating when done in moderation, is difficult to control, feels great when you are doing it and feels shitty later.

Anonymous free communication platform tools with a potential audience in the millions combined with sophisticated bot trolling algos have resulted in disaster.

I'm guilty of hounding politicians on Twitter in an attempt to reform the US Democratic party and need to get a healthier attitude. I think it's the combination of sheer frustration and the ability to react to the latest bureaucratic idiocy via the keyboards that are on my body far too much of my life...That and the meteoric drop in standards and credibility of the old media despite corporate TV's crushing and inexplicable hold over people as a credible 'news' source.

Do we need any other proof that the model on which Facebook based its success is not connecting people but rather selling hate? How long shall we still indulge Zuckerberg’s denial?

I think tragedies like this[1] one really drive this point home.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/15/technology/myanmar-facebo...

This mixed with the widening gap between the haves and have nots, and a potential giant economic correction are signs of a great disaster.

> Social media posts are twice as likely to go viral if they are negative about politicians they oppose rather than positive about those they support, a Cambridge University study suggests.

This paragraph seems a lot more neutral then the headline. A pretty straightforward explanation for this is that if there are more then two politicians competing in a race, a negative post about a politician is going to be liked by supporters of all other politicians, but a positive post is only going to be liked by supporters of that politician. For example, in the 2016 race, Sanders and Trump supporters might have liked negative posts about Hillary Clinton, Sanders and Clinton supporters negative posts about Trump, etc..

Another day, another word (trolling) stripped of meaning.

Proof that most people are a-holes

People take the internet too seriously. So its easy to troll them.

Surely you jest.

Kim Jong Un is a great leader. The North Korean people couldn't wish for a better one.

This wouldn't be considered trolling but positivity by the study, would it?

The mistake would be to assume that the outcomes of this study will be used to heal political discourse. Knowing social media companies, the takeaway here will be to focus on facilitating political trolling, since it will make their platforms more popular.

As if they haven’t known that for over a decade?

All social media companies have been around for over a decade? They get created every year. Now the new founders know what content to promote from the start.

I stopped reading after this:

> Social media posts are twice as likely to go viral if they are negative about politicians they oppose rather than positive about those they support, a Cambridge University study suggests.

Which rectified my original problem with comparing "trolling" to "positivity".

Anyways, this seems like non-news to me. Let's see those upvotes!

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