The “Other Side” Is Not Dumb

Excerpt from this article:

In psychology, the idea that everyone is like us is called the “false-consensus bias.” This bias often manifests itself when we see TV ratings (“Who the hell are all these people that watch NCIS?”) or in politics (“Everyone I know is for stricter gun control! Who are these backwards rubes that disagree?!”) or polls (“Who are these people voting for Ben Carson?”).


Online it means we can be blindsided by the opinions of our friends or, more broadly, America. Over time, this morphs into a subconscious belief that we and our friends are the sane ones and that there’s a crazy “Other Side” that must be laughed at — an Other Side that just doesn’t “get it,” and is clearly not as intelligent as “us.” But this holier-than-thou social media behavior is counterproductive, it’s self-aggrandizement at the cost of actual nuanced discourse and if we want to consider online discourse productive, we need to move past this.


What is emerging is the worst kind of echo chamber, one where those inside are increasingly convinced that everyone shares their world view, that their ranks are growing when they aren’t. It’s like clockwork: an event happens and then your social media circle is shocked when a non-social media peer group public reacts to news in an unexpected way. They then mock the Other Side for being “out of touch” or “dumb.”

What happens instead of genuine intellectual curiosity is the sharing of Slate or Onion or Fox News or Red State links. Sites that exist almost solely to produce content to be shared so friends can pat each other on the back and mock the Other Side. Look at the Other Side! So dumb and unable to see this the way I do!

Sharing links that mock a caricature of the Other Side isn’t signaling that we’re somehow more informed. It signals that we’d rather be smug assholes than consider alternative views. It signals that we’d much rather show our friends that we’re like them, than try to understand those who are not.

Dear Facebook, stop our smug posts – not the drunken ones

Young women drinking

Excerpt from this article:

Facebook wants to stop this misuse of its apparently dignified network, which is why it is now developing an algorithm to act as your very own “Facebook chaperone”. This system will detect your levels of uninhibited idiocy through certain words and behaviours, and then come up with some sort of warning message, along the lines of, “Are you sure you want your boss and mum to see this?”, before you post. It will guide you through the social media experience smoothly, making sure you don’t shatter the illusion you’ve so carefully created.

But where exactly is the fun in this? Everyone knows that the only genuinely readable parts of Facebook are the inappropriate status changes, the poor judgment played out in cyberspace. Publicised over-shares in front of hundreds of your friends provide a service. They make everybody feel less alone, and remind us all that no one has the life they say they do online.

…Without the inadvisable slip-ups, all we’d have is that obnoxious, self-celebratory optimism, again and again for all eternity – which is why I have to take a firm moral stance against the development of any sort of algorithm that will attempt to prevent people from making these sorts of errors. There are things Facebook should lean over and tap on your shoulder about, but they’re not the drunken indelicacies. They’re the inspirational quotes written across a sunset scene, urging everyone to “find the very core of your self today”… That one would certainly warrant a firm shoulder tap from the overbearing smugness algorithm.