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The science behind why people are mean online – is society doomed?

(Social Media News) People are mean online, but it isn’t just trolls, it’s everyone, because our brains are hardwired to be that way. Is there hope for society?

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Our brains make us mean online

We’ve all seen or participated in the bullying of celebrities by complaining online about how horrible they are, or taken brands to task for their misdeeds, and it is done with such frequency and at such a high volume, one must pause to consider whether or not our society has become more abrasive?

Social networks are filled with a level of vitriol we can’t imagine would occur if we had to ‘say it to your face.’ But we don’t have to, and that changes everything. Our brains don’t do empathy well when we aren’t face to face.

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Empathy is a big deal. It helps us understand how others feel so we can adapt to their needs. Empathy is what helps you keep your mouth shut when what you want to say would offend someone (and why you don’t mind opening it if that person isn’t present). Empathy is the bedrock of compassion, understanding, rapport building, friendship, and even business relationships.

How our brains are wired

We are hardwired for empathy through something in our brains called mirror neurons. These mirror neurons actually cause our brains to experience the emotions we see on the faces of others. When I smile, your brain lights up as if you are smiling. When I yawn, you yawn. When I am sad, you understand that sadness because your brain experiences it.

This is a very fast process your brain completes subconsciously. Labeled ’emotional empathy,’ it is rooted in the limbic system of our brain.

None of us like to experience sadness. We avoid it. We want to stop feeling it. These mirror neurons make our brains work for us to ensure that we play nice in the sandbox because when I make you unhappy, I have to feel unhappy. That’s good for me, for you, for the whole human race (literally).

Remove non-verbal cues that cause the mirror neuron magic and you remove the emotional empathy.

So is there any hope for social media?

Good news: there is another way for us to experience empathy. We can think using the executive center of the brain. This is called ‘cognitive empathy.’

The downside is that it’s a far more complicated, time consuming, and exhausting mental process. It’s like the difference between driving down the highway at 75 mph or using your feet because they were made for walking. Each can get you to your destination, but one is not like the other, and we give up easily when we are forced to go the more difficult route.

The more tired our brains are (in need of sleep, stressed, etc), the more likely we are to give up the long road of cognitive empathy. But that’s our only option when it comes to online communication. It’s cognitive empathy or bust – and unfortunately, we bust more often than we’d like to admit.

Is society doomed?

So what can we take from this info:

  1. People aren’t becoming more rude. This isn’t a ‘manners issue.’ It’s a brain issue. However, even if we don’t feel the consequences of our own brain suffering when we see others angry/sad/hurt by our statements, we still receive the consequences – broken relationships, reputational hits, reciprocal barbs.
  2. The more tired you are, the more likely you are to write negative tweets, send nasty emails, and post regretful comments on Facebook. If it’s negative, adopt a simple policy: If I still feel this way when I wake up, I will send this.

Our brains were wired to get along with others. It just wasn’t built for communication that was not fathomable even a decade ago. It’s time to understand what’s happening so that we can adapt to it.

Curt Steinhorst loves attention. More specifically, he loves understanding attention. How it works. Why it matters. How to get it. As someone who personally deals with ADD, he overcame the unique distractions that today’s technology creates to start a Communications Consultancy, The Promentum Group, and Speakers Bureau, Promentum Speakers, both of which he runs today. Curt’s expertise and communication style has led to more than 75 speaking engagements in the last year to organizations such as GM, Raytheon, Naval Academy, Cadillac, and World Presidents’ Organization.

Social Media

There’s a subreddit that is literally moving the stock market

(SOCIAL MEDIA) “You can’t change the world on Reddit all day.” Hm. Wanna bet? Some people do bet on whether a stock will rise or fall on Reddit.

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I don’t gamble. RIP to Mister Kenny Rogers, but this whole folding, holding, walking, running business is bad for my heart.

So playing the stock market is out for me, but apparently, you don’t even need an accountant to place your bets? The good, if foul mouthed, people of r/WSB aren’t just proving that, their playing and paying outside the traditional trading room is actually moving markets!

The subreddit, full name r/wallstreetbets, is 900,000 users strong, and boasts members that have been involved for years. They show off their stock market wins, losses, jokes, and opinions with varying levels of insight on all contributions.

Ordinarily, this’d just be an interesting collection of folks talking stock, but some of their threads have been shown to have an effect on share prices!

Users don’t just share what and how they’ve traded, they also gamble on what stock prices will do, without actually purchasing or selling any. Options contracts allow users to cast lots for less cash, while retaining the power to show actual purchases as hotter or colder and literally moving the temperature dial on them by word of mouth (and possibly pure conjecture) alone.

So I could hop in, put a marginal amount of money down, and say ‘Stock in Pressure Valve Company X is going to go up since more people are buying bidets in the wake of the Corona-based toilet paper hoarders, and they’re a key component’, then pepper in some off-color jokes about personal hygiene and everyone’s moms to blend in, and potentially wait to collect!

Neat.

After all, not only are surges of humans looking at these bets, web algorithms and cookie crawlers are staring too. It’s chatrooms of the dotcom boom all over again, except more chaotic, more gif-laden, and more monitored by outside forces.

It’d be sinister if the vibe of the sub wasn’t ‘Take literally nothing seriously’. Try discussing ‘chicken tendies’ in a boardroom sometime and see what I mean…although the tide on that might be shifting as well.

The one forbidden thing here is actually using the forum for insider trading. Directly profiting from the rumors gets users exiled, and gets users interacting with them booted too.

Serious business actually DOES occur, who would have thought? I wouldn’t have. Which is why I don’t gamble.

It’s easy to write Reddit off as just an online echo chamber slash cesspool, but when it comes down to it, the American Psychos of the world are on the same internet as the basement-dwellers, and the gap in financial literacy between the two ends of the spectrum is pulling a reverse Pangea.

We need to start recognizing that.

I’m still staying away from 4Chan though.

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Social Media

Facebook messenger gets a major facelift for speed

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook messenger has been around a loooooong time and has started to suffer from build bloat. So the new project lightspeed has redesigned it.

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If you’ve ever spent time in an old-school, family-built home, then you have an idea of what the inner workings of the Facebook Messenger app look like. It began with just a few rooms, but as the needs of the family grew, they kept adding on rooms wherever they fit until the layout no longer made sense and the home became a bloated maze.

Facebook Messenger has been suffering growing pains ever since it branched off into its own app in 2011. As the app became more popular developers worked to make it more engaging by adding new features like stickers, GIFS, and video calls.

At some point, they realized that the app had gotten away from them. The Facebook Messenger currently on your device has move 1.7 million lines of code. An app that big is slow and takes up a ton of valuable space on users devices, so the team knew it was time for a change. The project became internally as Project LightSpeed.

Facebook Messenger is a valuable app for connecting with friends, family, and business connections across the globe. You don’t even need to be Facebook friends with someone to message them making it an invaluable tool for long-distance teams or new business connections. In recent years, the app has begun to slow down making it vulnerable to competitors like WhatsApp.

The development team’s goal for the new app was to make it small, fast, and simple. In order to achieve this Facebook’s team of engineers has reduced the core code by 84%, taking the original 1.7 million lines of code down to 360,000. The new app will be about a quarter of the size of the current app.

A smaller app will load quicker and be more responsive, even if you’re using an older device or you’re in an area with lower connectivity. Current tests put the new app as being twice as fast as the current version, while keeping all the features that users have come to expect. Don’t worry, you will still be able to send your friends stickers, pictures, and obnoxious amounts of GIFs.

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Social Media

Facebook wants to hear from you. Literally. For innocent reasons

(SOCIAL MEDIA) As if Facebook didn’t already own everything that is you, they are asking to hear you say a specific phrase for their new voice services.

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Good news, Facebook is now offering to pay you to let strangers listen to you! Well, kind of.

Users connect to Viewpoints – a different app under the Facebook umbrella – which allows them to participate in market research. In this case, participants repeat the phrase “Hey Portal, call,” followed by the name of a Facebook friend, and submit the recording. The whole ordeal is about five minutes, tops.

By finishing this and other tasks, participants can expect to make a grand total of…$5. It’s not much, but at least that’s a fancy cup of coffee for work you can do while waiting for the ads to finish on your TV show.

So, why is Facebook shelling out $5 for people to make voice recordings? Surprisingly, it’s because AI is not nearly as smart as we sometimes assume – especially when it comes to voice commands. There’s a whole host of things that go into how we communicate, like posture, tone and even slang, which can make understanding vocal commands a much bigger ordeal.

In order to make improvements to the system, it often requires teams of humans putting in the leg-work. This means studying the disconnect between humans and machines, as well as creating solutions. Unfortunately, this human touch is also the excuse companies like Amazon use to justify listening in on your conversations. (Sure, users can ‘opt out’ but come on. That’s not exactly something Amazon advertises.)

As more people grow aware of the potential breach of privacy that tech like Alexa or Portal can bring, however, it’s put pressure on companies to scale back. Which is where Facebook’s new paid survey comes in. Unlike an anonymous employee listening in on a random Portal conversation, this way participants opt in, rather than out, of having their information shared.

The academic in me is slightly skeptical. There’s only so far a paid study like this can get, especially when it comes to the nuances of voice command. The conspiracy theorist in me is also skeptical, mostly because although Facebook promises they won’t sell your information or publicly share it, there’s still plenty of nefarious things to be done. That said, at the end of the day, at least Facebook isn’t just swiping information off your Portal…and you even get some pocket change in exchange.

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