Part 1 is HERE.
I want to walk through Jonathan Haidt’s article because it is worth breaking down and considering. BONUS: Haidt gives possible solutions for discussion, which is a highlight of his writing.
What social media created any 2012 were new algorithms to play UP posts that would create hate and animosity. The goal for users has become the least useful thing we can become: We want to go VIRAL. Facebook and Twitter became nastier places to dwell by this time.
Ironically, Haidt points out that James Madison (a key influence in the forming of the Constitution) called this out! The framers of the Constitution knew that democracy could crumble if it only depended on the collective judgment of the people simply because once you stir up passion you get the rule of mob. What was designed was a system to slow things down, cool passions, and require compromise.
Now, think about how you yourself may have ill thoughts about some of those phrases…
The design was to give legislators a buffer from the mania of the mob while still holding them accountable through elections.
What social media designed was Madison’s nightmare. Madison wrote of factions and inflamed passions and animosity that would serve only to oppress groups.
Madison ALSO wrote that democracy had a vulnerability to TRIVIALITY. Think of this little exercise that blew up Facebook a few years ago: “What color is the dress?“
Social media has magnified and weaponized the frivolous. Haidt notes such things as Ted Cruz retweeting a Big Bird tweet to make fun of Big Bird, a fictional character, getting a vaccine shot.
Social media has also chipped away at trust. Blind and irrevocable trust is never warranted, but when citizens lose trust in leaders, health authorities, the courts, police, universities, and integrity of elections, then every decision becomes contested.
We don’t get a slowing down of the process. We get a locking down of the process. The recent confirmation hearings of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson is Exhibit A.
We get parents being fearful over terms they don’t understand, like CRT. We get people angry over an election to the point of storming the Capital building and calling for the hanging of the Vice President. We get university students shouting down speakers in classrooms and seminars they don’t like and refuse to engage in what the university used to stand for: an exchange of ideas.
Social media has dissolve the mortar of trust. We can blame Donald Trump, but the truth of the matter is he simply saw something to be exploited and pressed down hard. He exploited outrage and because he saw the new paradigm quicker, others were slow to respond. Me included. I was operating in the old paradigm and by the time I realized things were simply not the same as in 2012, it was too late.
We have lost trust. We have lost common decency.
The new wiring has us in deep trouble.