Connect with us

Social Media

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?

Published

on

mean

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.

bar

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

Twitter experiments with “dislike” button in the lamest way possible

(MEDIA) Not that we would expect innovation from the halls of Twitter, but their dislike button is even less interesting than we could have predicted.

Published

on

twitter dislike button

For as long as there have been “Like” buttons on social media, the idea of a “Dislike” button has existed – if only as a concept. Recently, however, Twitter is toying with bringing the fabled “Dislike” button out of the metaphysical realm and into reality, though not for the reasons one might expect.

Twitter will be adding an “I don’t like” button to content in the coming months – but the number of dislikes something receives won’t be publicized as likes are.

In fact, Twitter maintains that the presence of this button is less of a social experience and more of a way to tailor your experience on the app to see what you want to see. This will feasibly help Twitter “??understand the type of responses that you consider relevant in a conversation, in order to work on showing you more of those types of responses.”

The button will reportedly take one of two forms: either a thumbs-down icon (next to a thumbs-up icon for likes) or a downward-facing arrow a la Reddit.

The “I don’t like” feature is currently limited to iOS users, and certainly not all of them–as an avid Twitter user, I have yet to receive the option to voice my dissent outside of the usual reporting channels. As with experiments like Fleets, voice tweets, and increased character limits, Twitter seems to be rolling out this option in small increments.

Interestingly, Twitter already has a similar feature that is available to all users, though it requires a small amount of menu digging. The “Not interested in this Tweet/Ad” option can be used to prevent tweets either from certain creators or on certain topics from appearing as frequently in your feed.

The option to block users or report tweets also still exists in case anyone needed to be reminded of that.

As long as the option to dislike tweets remains private and for optimization only, many of the concerns commonly associated with a dislike button – cyberbullying, declination of mental health, all-out civil war – are relatively moot; but, so it seems is the feature itself, given that the “Not interested” option also exists.

It wouldn’t be surprising in the slightest to see this feature eventually become public after its successful implementation.

Continue Reading

Social Media

India’s government still pushing social media platforms to nix COVID posts

(EDITORIAL) Whomsoever controls the information controls the people, and India is proving that censorship is a dangerous path.

Published

on

social media

Let’s take a walk through recent history, shall we? The timing is late April and the world is still attempting to control the spread of the COVID-19 Virus. Certain countries have succeeded in administering vaccines and keeping down the spread. Other’s have not. People are dying. Families are being stripped of their securities. What’s the saving grace for the majority of these people? Social media.

Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have turned into the news distributors and social lifelines. Our generation has gotten used to things like cable news outlets being entirely one sided with their distributed factoids. It’s easier to trust people than a news monolith, even though they are typically just as biased.

Personally, I believe that we are more accepting of a person being biased because they are supposed to be, whereas companies that report news, we feel should be unbiased and when they aren’t, it’s less forgivable. However, I digress.

Social media has become the new source of news for the younger generations. We go out and take in information either from real life or from other sources and send it out into our own little virtual worlds. Every piece of this information should be taken with a grain of salt and double checked, of course. At least if the person actually wants to spread real news. They then interact and disperse news through instant communication online.

Which leads us to India, 2021.

From the standpoint of this generation, what’s been happening there is deplorable. The Government of India demanded that both Twitter and Facebook begin removing COVID-related posts. Their reasoning? These posts are “deemed posed potential to incite panic among the public.” They are restricting the freest form of communication that has ever existed in to the human race.

Now this could be something that’s innocuous, or a genuine care for the country’s people. I’m sure there are posts out there that may have incited panic. However, some of the previous actions taken by the Indian government tend to make me think otherwise. Pointedly, requests for the blocking of Twitter accounts which criticized the countries policies have gone out. They’ve even threatened jail time for employees and users in this case.

They keep claiming the country’s good but if they are only silencing dissenting voices, they’re actually just protecting their right to govern. Leading to a darker place in mind for any future actions. There are certain facts which stand however.

The Indian government has failed in a number of ways this year. The culmination of which is their unprecedented collapse of their nation’s health infrastructure. One of the only ways that some people are getting their health supplies is through social media as people communicate locations that have supplies available so they can save their lives.

The restrictions that the government is putting forth isn’t helping people. It has the potential to kill them.

Continue Reading

Social Media

How news outlets are positioning Trump’s lawsuit against Big Tech

(MEDIA NEWS) As Trump’s lawsuit against Big Tech hits the airwaves, media outlets act less predictably than some would think. And most are missing what we believe will be the ultimate outcome.

Published

on

Former President Trump

In a bold move against “Big Tech,” former U.S. president Donald Trump is suing social media organizations that banned him earlier this year. The class action lawsuit, led by Trump himself, hopes to address the increasing impunity exhibited by these tech companies; there are multiple avenues of coverage that all predict different outcomes, the most likely of which is stronger regulation for tech companies.

Part of the larger issue is that the word “tech” is inherently misleading in the context of companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube – all of which are named in Trump’s lawsuit. While others waffled on understanding the difference between tech and media, we have insisted that one can only be categorized as a “technology” company if its primary product is hardware or software; “media” companies involve the dissemination of content using a digital platform.

But companies that might otherwise qualify as solely media-based have been blurring the lines for years, leading to a dearth of understanding regarding their very categorization – and how to enforce the laws that accompany that denomination.

Classifying companies like Facebook and Twitter as tech companies, therefore, is problematic in that the regulation often applied to media companies cannot be applied to them, despite a clear need for regulatory consistency.

In any event, the lawsuit itself alleges that these companies formed a monolithic stance, one whose “status thus rises beyond that of a private company to that of a state actor,” subjecting the companies in question to legal scrutiny under the first amendment – a right that Trump’s attorneys argue was violated when the former president was banned from using these sites.

There are several trains of thought regarding this lawsuit, the majority of which follow the expected party lines; however, one consistent player is Section 230, which is legislation that prevents social media companies from being held accountable for the content that their users create, publish, or share.

Right-leaning news outlets are focusing on possible infringement of free speech and the increasing prominence social media companies play in dictating real-world outcomes, with Fox News quoting Mark Meckler (former interim Parler CEO) as saying the lawsuit could “break new ground.” Trump himself pointed to Twitter’s continued entertainment of violent foreign “dictators” in his absence, alleging support for the idea that conservatives are being censored on social media.

Trump is also quoted as referring to social media as “the de facto censorship arm of the U.S. government” in light of companies like Facebook and Twitter enforcing policies against misinformation, largely at the behest of left-leaning government officials.

This aligns with the “state actor theory” in which social media companies are held with the same regard as government agencies in recognition of the power they wield.

A social media company’s status as a private entity, Trump argues, does not protect it from liability in an ecosystem in which these companies have as much influence as they do, arguing instead for the abolishing of Section 230.

Conservative news outlets are predominantly optimistic about the lawsuit’s success, with sources such as Meckler pointing out that this constitutes “a developing area of the law” that could result in a crackdown on Section 230 – something that would change the way social media companies operate for the foreseeable future.

Left-leaning news outlets are more focused on the flaws in the lawsuit, however, with The Daily Beast asserting that “constitutional law experts almost laughed at the legal arguments presented in the suits.”

“The argument here that Facebook should be considered a state actor is not at all persuasive,” said Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

Jaffer also points out inconsistencies in the lawsuit’s motivations: “It’s also difficult to square the arguments in the lawsuit with President Trump’s actions in office. The complaint argues that legislators coerced Facebook into censoring speech, but no government actor engaged in this kind of coercion more brazenly than Trump himself.”

These outlets similarly reference Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter cooperating with the CDC to prevent the spread of misinformation regarding COVID-19 – something that Trump’s legal team has cited as evidence that social media companies were colluding with Democrats.

Left-leaning sources acknowledge that the lawsuit could be damaging should it succeed in repealing or altering the parameters around Section 230, but they primarily view this lawsuit as more of a fundraising attempt than a legitimate gripe with the law.

“They know that they’re going to lose and this is a fundraising, publicity stunt that maybe lets them take a section 230 case up the appellate ladder,” says Ari Cohn, a lawyer with TechFreedom.

Cohn also asserted that the argument about Facebook as a state actor is old news, and other sources explained that the lawsuit is most likely a distraction from other stories more than anything else.

There are some fringe takes regarding this lawsuit as well, with Daily Wire calling the lawsuit a “publicity stunt” that is “dead on arrival” due to misinterpretations of Section 230 and the inaccurate logic that led up to the portrayal of Facebook as a “state actor”.

Similarly, centrist news org, The Hill, emphasizes that “the case is frivolous, and… will almost certainly be dismissed in court because private companies are not subject to comply with the First Amendment, which upends the basis of the complaint’s argument.”

Whether or not this lawsuit finds traction, the most reasonable outcome to expect is a closer look at how social media companies are classified, what their role is in public dealings, and which laws pertain to them while they occupy the liminal space between technology and media dissemination.

“Tech” companies have operated without proper regulation for far too long, and while the context here is divisive, the idea of holding these companies accountable to consistent legal expectations should not be.

Continue Reading

Our Great Partners

The
American Genius
news neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list for news sent straight to your email inbox.

Emerging Stories

Get The American Genius
neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to get business and tech updates, breaking stories, and more!