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Social Networks The Internet

Is Social Media Making Us Hate Each Other? (bostonglobe.com) 312

Nicholas Carr's book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains was a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize. Now an anonymous Slashdot reader reports on Carr's newest warning: It seems obvious: The more we learn about other people, the more we'll come to like them. The assumption underpins our deep-seated belief that communication networks, from the telephone system to Facebook, will help create social harmony. But what if the opposite is true? In a Boston Globe article, Nicholas Carr presents evidence showing that as we get more information about other people, we tend to like them less, not more. Through a phenomenon called "dissimilarity cascades," we place greater stress on personal and cultural differences than on similarities, and the bias strengthens as information accumulates. "Proximity makes differences stand out," he writes. The phenomenon intensifies online, where people are rewarded for sharing endless information about themselves. What the research indicates, warns Carr, is that the spread of social media is more likely to create social strife than social harmony.
The article concludes by opposing the idea that "If we get the engineering right, our better angels will triumph. It's a pleasant thought, but it's a fantasy... Technology is an amplifier. It magnifies our best traits, and it magnifies our worst. What it doesn't do is make us better people. That's a job we can't offload on machines."
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Is Social Media Making Us Hate Each Other?

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  • What's changed? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by beheaderaswp ( 549877 ) * on Sunday April 23, 2017 @06:50PM (#54289091)

    We always hated each other. Social media just makes it easier to be in other people's circles...

    If you hated someone in 1970... you just avoided them. On the internet, short of blocking them on social media, you are confronted with them constantly.

    So we haven't changed... social media just brings out some bad things in people. While still doing many good things.

    • I wish I could travel back in time to avoid APK.
    • Yes and no.

      I agree with the overall thought we have always been assholes to those who are different, the trick is technology allows us to be assholes to an even bigger audience.

      The advantage is that this is a generational thing. As the older generations age and die younger generations will already have that understanding that being an asshole to someone online is exactly like being an asshole to them in person.

      It will still happen as people only change slowly. It takes several generations to push through

    • Re:What's changed? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by hey! ( 33014 ) on Sunday April 23, 2017 @09:58PM (#54289695) Homepage Journal

      The problem is that social media reduces us to the way we present ourselves. While that certainly is part of who we are, it's not the whole story.

      One of the most popular maxims of ancient Greek philosophers was "know thyself", and the reason they considered it important is that it turns out to be a lot harder than it sounds. You think you know yourself, but chances people who spend a lot of time in close physical proximity to you understand you in ways you don't.

      But online your identity is mediated by how you present yourself. This is not only inevitably somewhat dishonest (in ways that may be more obvious to others than to yourself), even when you are trying to be honest you at best are presenting who you think you are.

    • Re:What's changed? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@world3.nBLUEet minus berry> on Sunday April 23, 2017 @10:48PM (#54289891) Homepage Journal

      I've noticed that on social media people make more assumptions about you than in real life. Seems to be due to them grouping people and then assuming that the group's properties apply to the assumed members.

      I get that a lot on Slashdot. People assume all kinds of crazy things about me because they put me in some imaginary "SJW" group.

      • Re:What's changed? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Monday April 24, 2017 @01:07AM (#54290257)

        Probably true, but even as someone who is likely your political polar opposite, I've always found your arguments to be consistent and well thought-out, even if I don't necessarily agree with all your positions or conclusions. For some reason, I think it's easier to remember a single negative moderation or hateful comment rather than a dozen encouraging responses or positive mods.

        Unfortunately, many people use the relative anonymity as an excuse for venting their own frustration, intentionally lashing out at others with caustic remarks or outright trolling. I've found that viewing such people with pity rather than frustration helps alleviate the frustration of dealing with rude people. What sort of person feels the need to lash out at others online? It's sort of pitiable, and I tend to think "how crappy is your life that online trolling is how you choose to interact with others?"

        I'm not sure there's any solution, other than ignoring the trolls and trying to set a good example yourself.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          Thanks. I'm glad someone is paying attention and I'm not just screaming into the void :-)

          I've come to the same conclusion as you. No point getting too upset. And honestly, some of them are hilarious. I love watching responses to Sargon's videos on YouTube because you are guaranteed at least one LOL moment. I also find people like him kind of fascinating.

          Unfortunately we have an election on in the UK at the moment, so engagement is required. Hopefully my years of study will help me be influential... But it's

      • by houghi ( 78078 )

        Assumptions are made in real life as well. You see somebody walking into a store and you will have an opinion about that person. Be it positive or negative. (You never get a second chance on a first impression)

        Sometimes you will even have an opinion about somebody before you see them.
        e.g. you are told to have a meeting or an interview with the manager of the IT department of company X. You have never met that person, but you will already have an opinion about that person. That will than be adapted when you

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          I think one of the most fundamental parts of being a good, moral person is not judging people based on first impressions or preconceptions.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Being a good moral person involves not acting on judgment to an innocent person's detriment. Judgment of others is simply human instinct.

    • Re:What's changed? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Sunday April 23, 2017 @10:48PM (#54289893) Homepage Journal

      On the internet, short of blocking them on social media, you are confronted with them constantly.

      Actually, I think it's the ability to block (or just de-friend) that creates the biggest part of the problem. It creates echo chamber effects, which help ideas morph into their most virulent and effective forms, especially ideas that demonize the holders of opposing ideas -- which, from a memetic evolutionary perspective are really cooperating ideas, not competing at all.

      A good, though somewhat annoyingly dumbed down, explanation of this process and effect is this youtube video. [youtube.com] If you haven't watched it, you really should -- and then think about the ideas that you hold and consider the possibility that they have evolved specifically to push your hot buttons in the most effective way possible, and how you can counter that.

    • if you hated somebody in the 1970s you got a bunch of your friends together and beat them to death. Social media and the Internet in general's made that a lot less OK.

      I don't think we've changed, but technology let's us record how awful we are and that makes it a lot harder to be that awful. Not impossible, mind you, but harder.
      • In the past Policing provided a big deterrent against violence, while today, some people think it is OK to harness others into suicide behind the supposed anonymity of the internet.

    • It also changes context some... on a message board like this, long arguments are possible. No one wants to read a thesis on Facebook, so you get memes. But those don't have nuance, so your gut reaction when reading one you disagree with is that this is all the nuance that the poster is possible of. Things continue to go downhill from there.
    • If you hated someone in 1970... you just avoided them.

      The statistics for murder and violent crime tend to suggest that in 1970 you were probably more likely to batter or kill them than nowadays.

  • Really? (Score:5, Funny)

    by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Sunday April 23, 2017 @06:53PM (#54289101) Homepage Journal
    "It seems obvious: The more we learn about other people, the more we'll come to like them."

    Who ever said that? Eventually people get annoying. Except for me.
    • "It seems obvious: The more we learn about other people, the more we'll come to like them."

      "Familiarity breeds contempt."

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      The more connected we feel, the more we like them. But, the "OMG, look at what [Trump|Hillary] did today" that is all "social" media contains, we don't build connections. We build walls.

      So the "obvious" isn't counter-intuitive, but it assumes some level of communication. What someone shares isn't "communication".

      That's the inherent flaw in the premise and logic that follows.
      • by Kohath ( 38547 )

        But, the "OMG, look at what [Trump|Hillary] did today" that is all "social" media contains...

        That's what the news media thinks is "news". Slashdot editors think that too.

    • "It seems obvious: The more we learn about other people, the more we'll come to like them."

      Who ever said that? Eventually people get annoying. Except for me.

      Why was this modded "Funny" rather than Insightful?

      Some people, "people people" you might call them, do like other people the more they learn about them. That's why politicians, for example, and certain other types of "people people" are always trying to thrust themselves into your life with speeches and handshakes etc - because they think you will like them more for it. However I am more likely to vote for a politician who just publishes a list of his proposed policies and STFU.

      Other people, including m

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 23, 2017 @06:55PM (#54289113)

    And if you know anything about the dynamics of a clique, you know they don't
    tend to involve niceness or admiration.

    What many forget is that humans are still animals, and that human behavior is
    driven by the desire for power or sex. All else is trivial details compared to power
    and sex.

    A clique is used to exclude more than it is to include. Exclusion is not a friendly
    behavioral phenomenon.

    I'd have to say Nicholas Carr is not wrong in theorizing that social media may foment
    dislike and related behaviors. However, I don't think such a realization is amazing,
    because it's pretty obvious if you bother to think for yourself. Facebook is just an electronic
    version of a high school clique. Some people will find this useful, while others will find it

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@world3.nBLUEet minus berry> on Sunday April 23, 2017 @10:52PM (#54289903) Homepage Journal

      Nonsense. Most human beings are driven by a desire to protect their families, and in most of the world are educated enough to realise that participation in civil society and being sociable is the best way to achieve that.

      What you are describing are sociopaths.

      • by rizole ( 666389 )

        human behavior is driven by the desire for power or sex

        Nonsense. Most human beings are driven by a desire to protect their families

        Wow, projecting much?
        Sometimes the models of humanity we hold are the overgeneralization of our own reflection. When it's ourselves we are looking at we can fail to see the reality of the other.

        Personally I think humans are driven by the need to get a +5 insightful or funny.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          Read The Selfish Gene. It explains all this stuff. Almost all instinctive behaviour had evolved to ensure the survival of the individual's genes. Sex is only a small part of that.

      • Not to get too involved defending the GP viewpoint, but having a family would be, from a reductionist standpoint, highly intertwined with both power (protecting them) and sex (continuing your line).
    • Here's what "cliques" made me think of: high school.

      Cliques form - and people get mean to each other - when individuals become saturated with friends. You only have enough energy / empathy / extroversion to maintain friendship with a certain number of people. If you have more people swirling around you than that, then you start to push some away.

      That's what the internet is. It's too many people. Immerse yourself in it too deeply and you'll exceed your capacity for friendly interaction, and start rejecti

      • by afxgrin ( 208686 )

        Theodore Kaczynski covers over socialization quite a bit in his crazy manifesto. I dislike giving that terrorist fuck any attention but he's not wrong on this subject.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 23, 2017 @07:02PM (#54289141)

    ... of similar people with similar backgrounds, professions, ages, political and cultural outlooks. Sometimes these are called "tribes".

    And like street gangs facing off in big cities, members of different tribes tend not to like each other much.

  • Everybody loves us ... and we hate everyone.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 23, 2017 @07:07PM (#54289159)

    It is not "social media".

    It is a "gossip platform".

    It is a social ill.

    It has transformed society into a bunch of bored. blue haired old women and 15 year old mean girls. We are giving megaphones to mean spirited idiots, and the less responsible they are, the more free time they have to spout stupidity and bile.

    It's time to kill it with fire.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 23, 2017 @07:49PM (#54289323)

      Or just not participate. If you don't sign up or log in, you're not part of the problem.

      Trying to destroy it makes it stronger. Let it die on its own when the next generation refutes it.

    • by Boronx ( 228853 )

      It has transformed society into a bunch of bored. blue haired old women and 15 year old mean girls.

      Don't forget the drunk guy at the end of the bar who is pissed because he has the solution to all the world's problems, but nobody listens.

  • No. We hate each other. The social media is acting as a facilitator.
  • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Sunday April 23, 2017 @07:12PM (#54289179)

    Because large segments of society -- including "thought leaders" -- that used to be nominally against hate are now cheerleading for it.

    The election was a good example, with one candidate bad-mouthing Mexicans and Muslims (in a way described by some as hateful) and the other directly calling Americans in the other party "enemies" and identifying a broad class of Americans as "irredeemable" and/or "deplorable".

    If we don't want more hate, let's stop encouraging it.

    • by lucm ( 889690 ) on Sunday April 23, 2017 @08:02PM (#54289381)

      Nobody called it "hate" when Jimmy Carter forbid immigration from Iran. It's "hate" now just because it comes from Trump.

    • by chihowa ( 366380 ) on Sunday April 23, 2017 @08:10PM (#54289405)

      I think that this cheerleading of hate from the establishment and overall atmosphere of divisiveness is very deliberate.

      It looks like a classic "divide and rule" strategy to keep the people at each others' throats and continually blaming each other for the state of affairs instead of having everybody looking toward their governments, politicians, and "thought leaders". Those in power are making a killing on the current state of affairs and are getting wealthier every day. They don't want this gravy train to stop rolling.

  • by duke_cheetah2003 ( 862933 ) on Sunday April 23, 2017 @07:12PM (#54289183) Homepage

    I already hated humanity pretty much. Social media just reinforces my belief that 95% of humans are dull uninteresting creatures I want nothing to do with.

  • Clickbait (Score:4, Interesting)

    by grumling ( 94709 ) on Sunday April 23, 2017 @07:26PM (#54289243) Homepage

    Controversy generates clicks. Clicks generate ad revenue. Everyone (who is exchanging money) is happy when we're all miserable.

    Reminds me of the climax of Jedi: Luke is thrashing away at Vader, full of hate and anger. Meanwhile the emperor is laughing with glee. Dance, monkey boy! Dance!

    • That's a good description of that scene. Of course I've seen it, but I never quite thought of it in those terms. Your words capture it well.
  • by war4peace ( 1628283 ) on Sunday April 23, 2017 @07:37PM (#54289283)

    ..."how I've grown to hate my wife."

  • Confirmation Bias (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PineHall ( 206441 ) on Sunday April 23, 2017 @07:48PM (#54289317)
    Social Media makes it easy for us to reinforce and confirm our beliefs. Family and friends help shape our beliefs and our social media "friends" tend to be those people. Social media puts us in a bubble as we self-select our "friends". We do not hear alternate views. I have 2 high school friends on Facebook, one is right wing and the other is left wing. They are both prolific in their postings. I want to block both of them but I don't so that I hear alternate viewpoints. We need to listen to alternate viewpoints. That is why they are not blocked.
    • by WDot ( 1286728 ) on Sunday April 23, 2017 @09:36PM (#54289643)
      I did the same for a while. I had a couple of friends who were wonderful people in real life, but posted a steady stream of toxic sludge that I didn't want to block because I wanted to "be open to other viewpoints." At some point, I figured I wasn't becoming more open minded, and was just becoming miserable, so I blocked them. My Facebook wall became so much more pleasant immediately! Even then, so much of Facebook was constant political discussion that I grew exhausted. I was too easily baited into arguments that I didn't even want to have. Quitting Facebook was one of the best choices I've ever made. I read a lot more interesting books and get a lot more work done.
      • I had a couple of friends who were wonderful people in real life, but posted a steady stream of toxic sludge that I didn't want to block because I wanted to "be open to other viewpoints."

        This seems more like some mad right wing conception of how "liberals" think than reality.

        Hint: past a certain purely theoretical point, the correct response to Fascism is to crush it to death, not blindly accept what its proponents are claiming.

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      I can think of two people I know on social media. One is very academic/intelligent (specialty pediatrician) and very left wing, one is very practical/intelligent but extremely right wing.

      But I find myself turned off by both. Despite the former's reasonableness, they come off snide and elitist. The latter just comes off dumbed-down, parroting a lot of right wing nonsense.

      What's kind of fascinating to me is that it's less their *ideas* that bother me. I agree with the pediatrician some of the time. I agr

  • Human nature is to distrust everyone and assumes evil as an explanation for any one that does not help you.

    All the internet does is reveal our true selves to the universe, mainly by pretending to offer anonymity.

  • by WinstonWolfIT ( 1550079 ) on Sunday April 23, 2017 @08:35PM (#54289479)

    Linux is making us hate each other.

  • It seems obvious: The more we learn about other people, the more we'll come to like them.

    That depends entirely on the people and what they believe. I actually ended up liking some people and groups better after getting to know them better, and other people and groups less.

    I guess the biggest general trend was that a lot of facades of success come crumbling down when you get to know people better, while quiet unassuming types often are more solid. And what I really dislike is if people make bad decisions and

    • by Boronx ( 228853 )

      Amen. It's the people that don't know anybody that hate the most. In rural Louisiana, it's the stone cold racists who never go to New Orleans who'll tell you it's not safe. They would be relatively safe, compared to the black kid from the city coming out to their town.

      It's the good folks of Missoula Montana who've probably seen a couple of Muslims their whole lives who feel the need to take action to prevent Sharia Law from taking hold in their city.

      It's the folks who've fled to lily white suburbs who are

      • Re:seriously? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Cmdln Daco ( 1183119 ) on Sunday April 23, 2017 @09:54PM (#54289691)

        It's kind of pitiful to watch somebody criticizing people who stereotype, do so much stereotyping themself. 'folks who've fled to lily white suburbs'? 'stone cold racists'???

        You live in a comic book universe, dude. Them villains are sure nasty!

        • My next door neighbor's parents disowned her after she married a guy from Mexico. This was a couple years after I heard them go off on a rant about how racist Arizona was for some anti-Mexican law that had passed.
        • by Boronx ( 228853 )

          These are people I know. White Americans who live and work among Latinos typically don't hate on "The Mexicans". Those that do hate are usually too scared to get too close. Of course, not every suburbanite is a bigot.

          The 'Stone Cold Racists" are real individuals, not stereotypes. Maybe not every stone cold racist will eschew New Orleans, I haven't met them all, so I might be stereotyping stone cold racists as afraid of the cities.

          Missoula being afraid of Sharia is specific, true, and totally insane.

      • It's the good folks of Missoula Montana who've probably seen a couple of Muslims their whole lives who feel the need to take action to prevent Sharia Law from taking hold in their city.

        The only "action" the good folks of Missoula Montana are likely to ever take against Sharia law is at the ballot box.

        Riots, looting, and violent political actions are overwhelmingly carried out by leftists (and I include fascists in that), not by conservatives or libertarians.

        It's the folks who've fled to lily white suburbs w

        • ... carried out by leftists (and I include fascists in that), ...

          Oh man, can we do that? I never knew. Can you add any group into any group or are there limits? I mean, when I talk about Mexicans can I include the Dutch or is it just political groupings? Can we mix groupings? When I say libertarians can I include the khmer rouge, smurfs and the beaker people of ancient Europe.

          This is an awesome development and will really save a lot of time and effort. You sir, are a genius.

          • Oh man, can we do that? I never knew. Can you add any group into any group or are there limits?

            You can only do it if the two groups are actually historically and ideologically closely related. But I understand your confusion: I used to believe in a strict left/right division as well, until I actually read a lot more 19th and 20th century history.

            In any case, my reason for "including fascists" among "the left" above isn't because of their historical connections, it's because of what the modern American left

  • by Snotnose ( 212196 ) on Sunday April 23, 2017 @08:47PM (#54289511)
    I'd have a Facebook account.

    / or at least consider most of them to be fucking idiots
  • And, quite honestly, the idea that everyone should always love one another, regardless of difference is as naive as it is crazy.

  • I have always hated people.
  • by HalAtWork ( 926717 ) on Sunday April 23, 2017 @09:51PM (#54289681)

    "The more we learn about other people, the more we'll come to like them."

    We're not learning about other people, we're only observing a tiny facet of them when they decide to write something online. All of the context is cut out. We only get a very superficial understanding of that person. Like stereotypes. When I meet with someone IRL I get all of the context, at least a much fuller picture, not the edited version.

    Online people want to only show what they feel is their best side, and others may feel the need to match or exceed that, and at least the busy vocal part seems to be competing in a one-up contest.

    Personally I am more reserved and tend not to write that much online, I don't really want to get involved in most of this and prefer to socialize IRL, perhaps there are others like me. Perhaps some keep their conversations hidden as well, and those are not indexed and processed. So perhaps what we see online is a very slim edited version, and maybe this is what we don't like.

  • by DidgetMaster ( 2739009 ) on Sunday April 23, 2017 @10:00PM (#54289701) Homepage
    It doesn't help when lots of people with strong opinions (some I agree with, some I don't) take the stance of 'I believe in X and anyone who disagrees with me must be an idiot.' This is because so many people want to fight for their cause and somehow think you can attract more flies with vinegar instead of honey. They used to be just those people who would march in protest carrying some sign that called the other side stupid or evil. Now with social media, that hateful crowd has grown substantially and they don't go home and throw away the sign when it starts to rain. We see both sides of the political aisle take these kinds of approaches and even see it here on /. when people start flaming each other over what operating system or programming language they use.
  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Sunday April 23, 2017 @10:04PM (#54289719)

    These people are sadists (the prototypical troll) and people that hate about everything for other reasons, often because they are pathetic themselves. Because they somehow think that social media is not a social situation, they believe they do not need to control their urges.

    There is nothing that can be done about this. Censorship and punishment for voicing opinions (repulsive as they may be) are only compatible with a totalitarian state and those cause orders of magnitude more pain and suffering than the trolls ever could. It is just one more thing that people need to learn when growing up: There are people out there that are not nice in any way and the best way to deal with them on social media is to ignore them. This is actually a pretty important thing to understand for other situations as well.

  • Seeing a lover every day spoils the illusion.

    (From the book)

    Note there's almost no evidence presented that social media makes people dislike each other more. Oversharing leads to being disliked but we don't follow those we dislike.
    My guess is that living in a social (media) bubble may nevertheless make us less tolerant of dissenting views.

  • I blame version control. GIT!
  • Imagine that! Who woulda thunk it?

  • Which increased understanding between peoples and species, leading to more wars than anything else ever.
  • by VikingNation ( 1946892 ) on Monday April 24, 2017 @07:52AM (#54291105)
    Social media has more negative impacts than positive. Following, liking, and posting begins to replace phone calls and visits from friends and family. The charged atmosphere of political posts creates wedges and animosity. Friends, and unfortunately family, start using social media to "aire grievances" and stab people in the back. The result of all of this is a lot of conflict and relationships that are in ruin.
  • by mcmonkey ( 96054 )

    I hated all of you before social media.

  • social harmony comes from shared experiences, realizing that someone else's differences work just as well as your own. It doesn't come from academic learning about them from reading.

Experience varies directly with equipment ruined.