Discover more from GOOD INTERNET
Social Media are Drugs.
And Desinformation is the hit.
Social Media are drugs.
41 US states filed charges against Meta and Facebook , accusing them of making addictive design decisions which harm teenagers. These accusations are not new: Social media has been shown to alter the neurological development of kids, leading to emotionally contagious outbursts of non-functional Tourette-like symptoms. Especially in connection with left-wing identity politics, they contribute to the mentioned depression crisis, which hit young, left-wing girls first. Critics often deny these connections, citing the lack of clear results from studies.
In a new post, Jean Twenge explores no less than 13 alternative explanations for the rapid increase in mental health issues among teenagers and still concludes: Yes, it's the phones and social media.
This depression crisis among young girls is not a phenomenon limited to the US. Jon Haidt has shown that it's not just an international phenomenon exclusive to english speaking countries, but also north european countries. In Germany mental health issues among young women are on the rise, too.
I've written a fair amount on the psychoactive side of social media, how it increases oxytocin and dopamine levels and warps or image of self, which is why i consider social media as a drugs, literally. They are the social equivalent of smoking, or maybe more apt: like XTC, they manipulate our hormone balance, leading to increased tribalism with both a hightened affection towards those who are similar to us, and a hightened exclusion towards those who don't. Like XTC, social media are increasing oxytocine levels, which has been dubbed "the love hormone", but it also promotes ethnocentrism, the exclusion of the other and the favoring of the ingroup. But unlike XTC, they are effective not just for a hot night of clubbing. Instead they show longterm effects on social mechanisms and these longterm consequences of our ignorance are now being felt by the kids.
This is why i am for a ban of smartphones at school and for hard regulations of social media. Because: "Yes, it's the phones. And Social Media."
And Desinformation is the hit.
I repeatedly written about how the impact of desinformation is overblown, even when it's production cost has fallen near zero thanks to generative AI. It was always cheap to produce desinformation and ofcourse it's rampant, but simultaneously, study after study shows that it has no impact and people don't change their oppinions, and that the people who get exposed to most desinformation are mostly well informed people with high interests in political discourse.
In Misinformation reloaded? Fears about the impact of generative AI on misinformation are overblown, researchers from the Harvard Kennedy School argue that while AI "makes it easier to create misinformation, which could increase the supply of misinformation", "it is not because there is more misinformation that people will necessarily consume more of it. Instead, we argue here that the consumption of misinformation is mostly limited by demand and not by supply."
They argue that people don't fall for desinformation and share them by mistake, but they deliberately seek it out, and the more partisan you are, the more likely you are to share desinformation: "Experts on misinformation view partisanship and identity as key determinants of misinformation belief and sharing (...) The problem is not that people do not have access to high-quality information but instead that they reject high-quality information and favor misinformation."
Let's put that in the larger context of viral anger: A recent paper found that gossiping about news with your political aligned peers on social media increases anger and simultaneously social media sorts us into partisan tribes, making exactly this increase of anger by gossip more probable. Mentioning your opponent on Social Media also is the highest factor of virality.
Taken together this means that desinformation gets used in partisan tribes as a narrative-fictional device in a story about the other side, and not much else. It fumes the flames, yes, but it doesn't change attitude or oppinions.
If anything, see above, desinformation is the hit you drop to manipulate your oxytocine levels and dunk on the other.