Social Networks and Societal Meltdowns

I was reading an article this morning in The Atlantic titled “The Dark Psychology of Social Networks – Why it feels like everything is going haywire” by Jonathan Haidt and Tobias Rose-Stockwell.

In this article, Haidt and Stockwell likened the impact of social networking to a doubling in the gravitational constant of our universe. If this were to occur, the change would be so great as to move the Earth closer to the sun, increase gravitational pull on people, buildings, etc. causing collapse and devastation never before seen.

In relation to social networks and modern day technology, while the intent was to bring humans closer together using social networking as the common agent of communication. While this is mostly true, the other side of this is increased societal polarization, release and acceptance of disinformation, and the rise of what philosophers Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke termed “moral grandstanding”.

In other words, humans posturing to enhance perceptions of themselves in the eyes of others, in order to gain acceptance and even leadership recognition among their peer groups and beyond.

In My View

Haidt and Stockwell have hit on an area we should raise concern and an awareness that we live in an age where more information/disinformation is created, shared, and used to generate acceptance or controversy than any other time in history.

Once again, I see this as not the technology at fault, but the human element using it in ways it was not originally intended to be used. Jut look at Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms and how they devolved from a way to keep connected with friends, into communication tolls to reach the masses with one’s own views/opinions regardless of factual realities presented in the content.

Technology is a wonderful thing benefiting many, yet as with most things, it is also a tool that can be used to distract and disrupt society. We see this everyday where dissemination of opinions and views once discussed civilly, are now the impetus of disruption and societal breakdowns, even among families and life-long friends.

As humans, we control how we choose to use technology and how we react to its use. If there is a controversial message that runs across your desk, an opinion you do not agree with, the question to ask is one of engagement, or discarding it, and if you engage, what is the message you will send?

We must take control of the technology in our lives and not let technology take control of us by not letting our social networks become the beginning of a social meltdown.

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