TidBITS: Former Exec: Facebook Is Ripping the Social Fabric of Society

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TidBITS: Former Exec: Facebook Is Ripping the Social Fabric of Society

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Former Exec: Facebook Is Ripping the Social Fabric of Society

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Former Exec: Facebook Is Ripping the Social Fabric of Society

By Josh Centers
http://tidbits.com/article/17684

Chamath Palihapitiya is the latest former Facebook executive to call the company out, saying at a recent Stanford appearance: “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,” and expressing “tremendous guilt” for his participation. Palihapitiya certainly doesn't mince words: “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works… No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem — this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem.” Palihapitiya, who rose to the position of vice president for user growth at Facebook, appears to have struck a nerve, since the company made the rare move of defending itself, saying “When Chamath was at Facebook we were focused on building new social media experiences and growing Facebook around the world. Facebook was a very different company back then and as we have grown we have real! ised how our responsibilities have grown too.” It's interesting that Facebook doesn’t deny Palihapitiya’s criticisms!

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Re: TidBITS: Former Exec: Facebook Is Ripping the Social Fabric of Society

Alexander Forbes


On Dec 13, 2017, at 9:26 AM, TidBITS Articles <[hidden email]> wrote:

“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works… No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. 

I couldn’t disagree more with  Palihapitiya’s take. People get to lie in the beds they make. Anyone who relies on Facebook or any other site for all of their news would be equally slack-jawed drool-bibbers at Occupy Democrat or RightWingNews, and they deserve what they get. Do we flock to  cloistered think-alike enclaves? My experience with Facebook is quite different. I see new facts being injected into the dialog, good questions asked, and new opinions formed. I see people offering perspectives and values that add real light to the conversation. 

Facebook reportedly has users in nine digit numbers. I have Friends in England, Ireland, Vietnam and Canada.  I have gripes about facebook web page design and banal, irrelevant ads, but IMHO the potential positives outweigh all of the platitudinous propaganda and shock sites one is free to choose on Facebook or anywhere else on the web.

Just my opinion.

Alex





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Re: TidBITS: Former Exec: Facebook Is Ripping the Social Fabric of Society

Fred Pryor
Sorry for taking so long to reply, how’s your schedule look around 10 either Friday or Saturday?

From Fred's iPad

On Dec 13, 2017, at 12:21 PM, Alexander Forbes <[hidden email]> wrote:



On Dec 13, 2017, at 9:26 AM, TidBITS Articles <[hidden email]> wrote:

“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works… No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. 

I couldn’t disagree more with  Palihapitiya’s take. People get to lie in the beds they make. Anyone who relies on Facebook or any other site for all of their news would be equally slack-jawed drool-bibbers at Occupy Democrat or RightWingNews, and they deserve what they get. Do we flock to  cloistered think-alike enclaves? My experience with Facebook is quite different. I see new facts being injected into the dialog, good questions asked, and new opinions formed. I see people offering perspectives and values that add real light to the conversation. 

Facebook reportedly has users in nine digit numbers. I have Friends in England, Ireland, Vietnam and Canada.  I have gripes about facebook web page design and banal, irrelevant ads, but IMHO the potential positives outweigh all of the platitudinous propaganda and shock sites one is free to choose on Facebook or anywhere else on the web.

Just my opinion.

Alex




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Re: TidBITS: Former Exec: Facebook Is Ripping the Social Fabric of Society

Fred Pryor
Sorry replied to wrong email

From Fred's iPad

On Dec 13, 2017, at 12:26 PM, Fred Pryor <[hidden email]> wrote:

Sorry for taking so long to reply, how’s your schedule look around 10 either Friday or Saturday?

From Fred's iPad

On Dec 13, 2017, at 12:21 PM, Alexander Forbes <[hidden email]> wrote:



On Dec 13, 2017, at 9:26 AM, TidBITS Articles <[hidden email]> wrote:

“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works… No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. 

I couldn’t disagree more with  Palihapitiya’s take. People get to lie in the beds they make. Anyone who relies on Facebook or any other site for all of their news would be equally slack-jawed drool-bibbers at Occupy Democrat or RightWingNews, and they deserve what they get. Do we flock to  cloistered think-alike enclaves? My experience with Facebook is quite different. I see new facts being injected into the dialog, good questions asked, and new opinions formed. I see people offering perspectives and values that add real light to the conversation. 

Facebook reportedly has users in nine digit numbers. I have Friends in England, Ireland, Vietnam and Canada.  I have gripes about facebook web page design and banal, irrelevant ads, but IMHO the potential positives outweigh all of the platitudinous propaganda and shock sites one is free to choose on Facebook or anywhere else on the web.

Just my opinion.

Alex




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Re: TidBITS: Former Exec: Facebook Is Ripping the Social Fabric of Society

Travis Butler
In reply to this post by Alexander Forbes

On Dec 13, 2017, at 11:21 AM, Alexander Forbes <[hidden email]> wrote:



On Dec 13, 2017, at 9:26 AM, TidBITS Articles <[hidden email]> wrote:

“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works… No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. 

I couldn’t disagree more with  Palihapitiya’s take. People get to lie in the beds they make. Anyone who relies on Facebook or any other site for all of their news would be equally slack-jawed drool-bibbers at Occupy Democrat or RightWingNews, and they deserve what they get. Do we flock to  cloistered think-alike enclaves? 

I can’t agree, on multiple fronts.

First, no, there’s no guarantee that the people you disparage would be equally avid consumers of biased bubble-news without Facebook. It’s the difference between seeking something out, and having it pushed at you. Which are you more likely to read - the mainstream newspaper delivered to your doorstep, or the tabloid you have to go out and purchase? Or flipped around, which is a more likely read - the tabloid at the supermarket checkout, or the Wall Street Journal at the library?

Second, whether or not they condescendingly 'deserve what they get', we as a society do NOT deserve it. Demagoguery is always a danger in a democracy, and the less well-informed the people are, the greater the danger. Even if they never vote, ignorance and misinformation affect us all - people who believe anti-vax claptrap and refuse to vaccinate their kids are hurting everyone by providing opportunities for diseases to spread, to name one example.





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Re: TidBITS: Former Exec: Facebook Is Ripping the Social Fabric of Society

Wade Riddick
In reply to this post by TidBITS Articles
There is nothing new under the sun.  This criticism of hypertext goes back to
Ted Nelson's college work.  Summarizing from memory, he argued that if
hypertext links don't work both ways, you get unreliable information.

That is to say, every page that's linked to must know who's linking to it so
that you can pursue a piece of information back to its origin.  In this way,
each speaker develops a reputation and can be held responsible for their
behavior.  There is no liberty without both personal responsibility toward
society and individual license to act.  Civic responsibility and personal
freedom cannot be separated.

Even relatively weak pseudo-anonymity permits low-cost efforts to sabotage the
marketplace for ideas/good information.  Fraud flourishes and a version of
Gresham's dynamic emerges as people take revenge on one another with lies and
innuendo.  Tribal troll warfare breaks out.

The same effect occurs when you let high frequency traders manipulate stock
prices with bogus bids to manipulate the price.  It drives honest traders out
of the market and you can't punish miscreants, leading to a greasy escalator
of moral hazard.

We've built an information age without any care as to whether the information
being supplied is accurate or not.

Foucault, Thomas S. Kuhn and others had a point in saying that truth is often
more of a social construction than we're comfortable admitting... but that
doesn't really make truth actually a social construction.  Truth is truth.
Our beliefs about reality are just that - beliefs.  Sometimes they are true.
Sometimes they aren't.

Deconstruction on the philosophical left and evangelical Christianity on the
right have pushed us into a world where personal experience and
revelation/testimony outweigh universal ethical truths like due process,
justice and fairness.

This has led to a toxic, narcissistic identity politics where opposite sides
of the political spectrum often ignore the truths of their founders and engage
in bizarrely hypocritical behaviors.

Of course those who benefit the most from this dismantlement are those with
money to do the dismantling and who flourish from escaping the scrutiny of
criminal laws when the state gets weakened by the partisan paralysis.  Witness
the 50,000+ people dying every year from opiate overdoses because Pharma
deliberately lied about the addictive nature of their opioid products (e.g.,
Perdue).  Or take the oil industry, climate change and Russian oligarchs.

Decay of respectful democracy naturally damages the public good whether it's
our common ecology, economy or health.

Many people told you this was going to happen dating back to the 1970s when
the Supreme Court equated money with speech.  Money is, in fact, not speech
(or this posting would make me richer).  The more money is spent saying
something, the less speech it is and the more economic activity it is.
Deregulating that economic activity by calling it speech has enabled a number
of economic crimes that long predate Facebook's founding.

The simple fact is we live in an era where lobbying, advertising and
commercial self-interest are confused with fact, honesty and community.  We
can't tell the difference between ethics and conflicts of interest anymore
because we can't genuinely respect another person's point of view or set aside
our own quest for personal gain (or "likes," if you prefer the term).

Wade Riddick




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Re: TidBITS: Former Exec: Facebook Is Ripping the Social Fabric of Society

Bill Rausch
Ted also talked about the notion of this tracking being used for micro-payments, as in, each hit would/could cost a tiny amount of money that would be forwarded to the author somehow. Perhaps today's cryptocurrencies could have been used for this.

I listened to him once at a Mac programmer's conference. Think he was using a MicroVAX system at the time for doing his prototyping.

Bill


> On Wednesday, Dec 13, at 12:46 PM, Wade Riddick <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> There is nothing new under the sun.  This criticism of hypertext goes back to
> Ted Nelson's college work.  Summarizing from memory, he argued that if
> hypertext links don't work both ways, you get unreliable information.
>
> That is to say, every page that's linked to must know who's linking to it so
> that you can pursue a piece of information back to its origin.  In this way,
> each speaker develops a reputation and can be held responsible for their
> behavior.  There is no liberty without both personal responsibility toward
> society and individual license to act.  Civic responsibility and personal
> freedom cannot be separated.



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Re: TidBITS: Former Exec: Facebook Is Ripping the Social Fabric of Society

Wade Riddick
In reply to this post by TidBITS Articles
Ted and I talked over email after I wrote for BYTE about digital copyrights
around roughly the same angle.  I wasn't aware of how many other people were
working on it even back in the early- to mid-'90s until I met with some
micropayments guys in Austin (that never went anywhere).

I think ordinary audiences would be surprised how much technical effort went
into developing other models of compensation besides advertising.  When you
think about social media, it's just a very basic way to get your own users to
turn their lives into mini-TV shows that advertisers and intermediaries can
then monetize.

The asset known as Bitcoin will certainly have to improve transaction volumes
dramatically before it falls into broader usage (not to mention power use for
"mining" operations).

Wade Riddick

------ Original Message ------
Received: Thu, 14 Dec 2017 12:34:33 AM EST
From: Bill Rausch <[hidden email]>
To: TidBITS Talk <[hidden email]>
Subject: Re: TidBITS: Former Exec: Facebook Is Ripping the Social Fabric of
Society

Ted also talked about the notion of this tracking being used for
micro-payments, as in, each hit would/could cost a tiny amount of money that
would be forwarded to the author somehow. Perhaps today's cryptocurrencies
could have been used for this.

I listened to him once at a Mac programmer's conference. Think he was using a
MicroVAX system at the time for doing his prototyping.

Bill


> On Wednesday, Dec 13, at 12:46 PM, Wade Riddick <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> There is nothing new under the sun.  This criticism of hypertext goes back
to
> Ted Nelson's college work.  Summarizing from memory, he argued that if
> hypertext links don't work both ways, you get unreliable information.
>
> That is to say, every page that's linked to must know who's linking to it
so
> that you can pursue a piece of information back to its origin.  In this
way,
> each speaker develops a reputation and can be held responsible for their
> behavior.  There is no liberty without both personal responsibility toward
> society and individual license to act.  Civic responsibility and personal
> freedom cannot be separated.



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Re: TidBITS: Former Exec: Facebook Is Ripping the Social Fabric of Society

mmatty
In reply to this post by Alexander Forbes

---- Alexander Forbes <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
>
> > On Dec 13, 2017, at 9:26 AM, TidBITS Articles <[hidden email]> wrote:
> >
> > “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works… No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth.
>
> I couldn’t disagree more with  Palihapitiya’s take. People get to lie in the beds they make. Anyone who relies on Facebook or any other site for all of their news would be equally slack-jawed drool-bibbers at Occupy Democrat or RightWingNews, and they deserve what they get. Do we flock to  cloistered think-alike enclaves?

Unfortunately, this is true. That's why Facebook has become so wildly successful as it is and will be for at least the immediate future, and probably longer. And that's why Facebook makes so much money - the more they know about everyone the better they can target advertising, and the better they can deliver extremely granular audiences, the more money they will make and the higher their stock prices will soar.

>My experience with Facebook is quite different. I see new facts being injected into the dialog, good questions asked, and new opinions formed. I see people offering perspectives and values that >add real light to the conversation.

I have never joined Facebook and have no intention of doing so.

>
> Facebook reportedly has users in nine digit numbers.

They have over 2 billion users, not just people who signed up and stopped using it, worldwide. The amount of information they accumulate from users is truly mind boggling.

Marilyn



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Re: TidBITS: Former Exec: Facebook Is Ripping the Social Fabric of Society

mmatty
In reply to this post by Travis Butler
---- Travis Butler <[hidden email]> wrote:

>
> > On Dec 13, 2017, at 11:21 AM, Alexander Forbes <[hidden email]> wrote:
> >
> >
> >
> >> On Dec 13, 2017, at 9:26 AM, TidBITS Articles <[hidden email] <mailto:[hidden email]>> wrote:
> >>
> >> “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works… No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth.
> >
> > I couldn’t disagree more with  Palihapitiya’s take. People get to lie in the beds they make. Anyone who relies on Facebook or any other site for all of their news would be equally slack-jawed drool-bibbers at Occupy Democrat or RightWingNews, and they deserve what they get. Do we flock to  cloistered think-alike enclaves?
>
> I can’t agree, on multiple fronts.
>
> First, no, there’s no guarantee that the people you disparage would be equally avid consumers of biased bubble-news without Facebook. It’s the difference between seeking something out, and having it pushed at you. Which are you more likely to read - the mainstream newspaper delivered to your doorstep, or the tabloid you have to go out and purchase? Or flipped around, which is a more likely read - the tabloid at the supermarket checkout, or the Wall Street Journal at the library?

I strongly agree with Travis. Social media participants overwhelmingly tend to link to people, products or services they like. The comments they make, the photos, videos, etc. they post, purchases they make, services and credit cards they use, where they go and where they are, etc., etc. are extraordinarily valuable to marketers. And they target not just by buying ads, they can hire people to post on on their services as well as on the blogs, websites of others, which in turn get commented on and passed around. Many, and probably a large %, are not consumers of news media outlets, online, print or broadcast otherwise.

>
> Second, whether or not they condescendingly 'deserve what they get', we as a society do NOT deserve it. Demagoguery is always a danger in a democracy, and the less well-informed the people are, the greater the danger. Even if they never vote, ignorance and misinformation affect us all - people who believe anti-vax claptrap and refuse to vaccinate their kids are hurting everyone by providing opportunities for diseases to spread, to name one example.
>

These are just a few reasons why the Russian social media interference in the US elections is so alarming. And probably only a small fraction of it has been detected.

Marilyn



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Re: TidBITS: Former Exec: Facebook Is Ripping the Social Fabric of Society

mmatty
In reply to this post by Wade Riddick

---- Wade Riddick <[hidden email]> wrote:
> There is nothing new under the sun.  This criticism of hypertext goes back to
>Ted Nelson's college work.  Summarizing from memory, he argued that ifhypertext links don't work both ways, you get unreliable information.

Everything is is new under the sun when it comes to digital communications and social media. It evolves rapidly every day.

>That is to say, every page that's linked to must know who's linking to it so
>that you can pursue a piece of information back to its origin.  In this way,
>each speaker develops a reputation and can be held responsible for their
>behavior.  

How many fake identities are there? And do you think Facebook does not give anyone outside of those that pay them, the ability to target messages to their 2+ billion active users. And remember how hard Apple fought to keep its information secret, and what a big selling point this has been for Apple devices and services. Apple Pay is another example - the information is not traceable; to date, it's the most successful among other services.

Marilyn


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Re: TidBITS: Former Exec: Facebook Is Ripping the Social Fabric of Society

mmatty
In reply to this post by TidBITS Articles
---- gastropod <[hidden email]> wrote:
> On Wed, Dec 13, 2017, at 09:21 AM, Alexander Forbes wrote:
>
>
> > On Dec 13, 2017, at 9:26 AM, TidBITS Articles <[hidden email]> wrote:
> >
> > “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works… No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth.

>Something probably overlooked if you don't have experience with modern
>dog training, is that when Palihapitiya says "The short-term,
>dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created", it's not hyperbole or
>metaphor - it's explicitly the mechanism that social media uses to keep
>people coming back to the site instead of doing something else.

Unique selling proposition and other stuffy, politically correct terms used in public for what advertising, media or marketing people often refer to as the "dog whistle." Apple's "1984," "Mac vs. PC," "Think Different" and even the non-verbal "Silhouettes" ads were so successful. In the US, Republicans have been extremely successful with using dog whistles to stir up their base and attract new believers. Think "illegal alien," "fake news," "build a wall," etc., etc. And don't forget all the chants of "lock her up" during last year's election season.

>People can easily be taught to 'like' more and more, post more and more
>to get 'likes', and give more and more attention to social sites instead
>of their own lives, because people are rewarded by even ephemeral  and
>useless social approval.  The programmers of these sites explicitly dole
>out these rewards on the most effective schedules they can, and they've
>learned to be more effective with practice and by watching the results
>on the users.  Those feedback loops are indeed created by planners, and
>it's a short chain from site programming to site interaction to physical
>dopamine release in real brains.

And there is a huge market, advertisers and more, that can create phenomenal results for very little money by targeting specific audiences in social media. And another benefit is that they can limit the exposure of messages to people who might not agree and raise a stink about offensiveness or illegality. But what is usually one of the most important considerations in crafting a dog whistle to create it so that it's not so obvious to the target audience, and especially the general public, that it seems as innocuous as possible. Think "make America great again (which echos Lindberg's pro-Nazi slogan).

Marilyn






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Re: TidBITS: Former Exec: Facebook Is Ripping the Social Fabric of Society

@lbutlr
In reply to this post by Alexander Forbes
On 13 Dec 2017, at 16:11, gastropod <[hidden email]> wrote:
> The Atlantic has a good article that includes a brief taste of how it works, along with some ways to break the cycle (mostly, turn off notifications and interact in person more).

And this is where they lose me. The bias that 'in person' is superior is common, but entirely unfounded. People get exactly the same sorts of dopamine rewards from in-person interactions. More, perhaps.

This is why, for example, people will be friends with a popular person they don't like. Or why you stay in touch with people you no longer have anything in common with.

But there is a problem, if you want to call it that, with the ease in which you can connect to anyone you want to, though i think claiming it is a social media problem is missing the point.

Without technology, your circle of interaction is limited to the people around you. Regardless of what you think of those people, they are who you have to deal with and interact with. As technology makes the effective size of the world smaller, your pool of people to interact with grows far beyond the number of people that you could ever associate with, so you become selective.

Of course you are going to select people you like because no one willingly chooses to interact with people they do not like.

When there are billions of people to chose from, all of whom are within the same degree of difficulty to contact, you are going to find the people most like you.

I routinely send messages to friends in the UK, Thailand, Japan, Canada, Spain, and others. Contacting them is no harder (and in many cases easier) than my next-door neighbors.

A few of the people I'm closest to I've never met in person, and the person I've known the longest outside my family I see more often now that he lives 1,000 miles away then I ever saw him when he lived in the same city, and even so, over the last 30 years or so I am sure we've seen each other face-to-face only a few dozen times.

So, no, "turn off notifications and interact with people more" is not useful advise, it's just telling people that "You're friends aren't as valuable as my friends because my friends I see in meatspace."

I'm sure there were many people concerned over how this new-fangled writing was destroying social connections, and I know there were these same "the sky is falling" concerns over telephones. All that has changed is that the technology has gotten better, faster, and cheaper.

--
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Re: TidBITS: Former Exec: Facebook Is Ripping the Social Fabric of Society

mmatty

> On Dec 14, 2017, at 2:09 PM, @lbutlr <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
>
> But there is a problem, if you want to call it that, with the ease in which you can connect to anyone you want to, though i think claiming it is a social media problem is missing the point.

There is something that really rubs me the wrong way about social media that is highlighted once again by the Russian election interference. False and hateful messages were very quickly, effectively and efficiently delivered to specifically pinpointed audiences who were also able to use them to incite crowds.

When the problem was identified and called out, social media companies blamed it on their algorithms. The solution they've offered so far is to tinker with algorithms and hire a few more people to"screen."


>
> Without technology, your circle of interaction is limited to the jpeople around you. Regardless of what you think of those people, they are who you have to deal with and interact with. As technology makes the effective size of the world smaller, your pool of people to interact with grows far beyond the number of people that you could ever associate with, so you become selective.

So far, the announced solution is to hire a few screeners and tinker with the algorithms. But as the algorithms accumulate more and more information about almost everyone every second, do they really think that it will be harder to reach Holocaust or climate change deniers, etc.? Though I've forgotten the name, it was a well known data science company that was hired by Breitbart to determine the targets and how to reach them, and it didn't take long to figure out who, where and how.

>
> Of course you are going to select people you like because no one willingly chooses to interact with people they do not like.

People you like that you think might you can also strike at the vulnerable. One example is the teenaged girl who was stabbed multiple times by friends who wanted to impress Slenderman.

Marilyn



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Re: TidBITS: Former Exec: Facebook Is Ripping the Social Fabric of Society

Wade Riddick
In reply to this post by TidBITS Articles


------ Original Message ------
Received: Thu, 14 Dec 2017 02:10:37 PM EST
From: "@lbutlr" <[hidden email]>

>The bias that 'in person' is superior is common, but entirely unfounded.
People get exactly the same sorts of dopamine rewards from in-person
interactions. More, perhaps.

It is different.  You don't get much oxytocin from online interaction and that
changes everything.  There's also a different character to immediate
interactions that raises the inhibitions against lying.  Constantly
communicating via social media can erode social cues that are obvious even
over the phone, resulting in a loss of emotional connection.  Children raised
on these devices are losing emotional intelligence.

Getting together with those whom you share common interests is called a
convention.  Communities are made up of all kinds of people you might not know
or like.  Social media allows you to tailor your inclusion/exclusion much more
easily.



>I'm sure there were many people concerned over how this new-fangled writing
was destroying social connections, and I know there were these same "the sky
is falling" concerns over telephones. All that has changed is that the
technology has gotten better, faster, and cheaper.

The cost of editing a message remains fixed - because it needs human judgement
- whereas the cost of propagation has dropped, since it's automated.  How many
people really take the time to ruminate on responses in a heated argument
given the relative ease of sending it off?  Plus, I don't know about you, but
there are just certain courtesies few people skimp on when debating me in
person.  For starters, I'm relatively tall and fit compared to the average
person.  A Trump shtick rarely lasts long.

Then again there's also the automation angle in social media which allows
teams to influence thousands of people at once in a way that's simply not
feasible at that speed or scale in other media - and certainly not
person-to-person.

Wade Riddick


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