Why, in the year 2021, do we need a Forum like SixtyEightPointTwo.com? Perhaps examining the effects of social media on our everyday lives will shed some interesting light on the topic.
As human beings, we all want to find acceptance in our lives, to find meaning, to belong to a group. And after many years of being fed information from a limited number of sources, along comes social media, ostensibly giving us all the ability to speak our minds, while seeking the unvarnished truth. And it’s free, after all! From this first miscalculation, it didn’t take long to get to the point where we all hate each other and public conversation has, for all intents and purposes, been shut down.
Having been conditioned, from an early age, to understand that there is no “free lunch”, it has always astounded me to experience the revelation of those who suddenly figure out why they are receiving ads in their newsfeed mere minutes after they search for a product using Google. This data is extremely valuable in the hands of Google engineers who are busy building and modifying algorithms to make sure they are maximizing the value of your searches.
Now, as you move through your social media life, eagerly adding “friends” and “liking” posts, you start to experience two psychological phenomena that lead you in a subconscious direction – cognitive dissonance and conformation bias. Cognitive dissonance is basically feeling unease when confronted with ideas that run counter to your own, and confirmation bias is a result of the cognitive dissonance. Confirmation bias forces us to seek out opinions that will confirm our internal biases, thus reducing the anxiety caused by the cognitive dissonance.
Remember those algorithms and the fact that social media platforms are in the business to make money? With our cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias as the main variables for the algorithms, is it any surprise that our social media environment very quickly becomes tribal, with each tribe existing on the fringes? And now that we are in our tribes, how does social media keep us there, while keeping up the façade of truth and facts?
There are basically two camps in these ideological tribes – the ones that use Ad Hominem attacks to stifle any dissent. They quickly resort to the key words used to shame – racist, socialist, homophone, communist, and the list goes on and on. The other camp attempts to make a critical thinking argument, but often employ the well-known fallacies. The nine most common are
Undermine the messenger – distrust the story based on the person sharing it
Causation/Correlation - correlation doesn't mean causation
Wrong denominator - statistics must be normalized to have relevance
False comparison - benchmarking using non analogous data
Generalization - assuming something that works in one place will work in another
Firsthand experience - people give more credence to firsthand advice
Assuming motivations - assuming one can read the mind of another
Cherry picking - selectively citing incomplete date to bolster a point
Downside - assuming downside risk means an idea is not good
SixtyEightPointTwo will attempt to use critical thinking methodologies to spur conversation in an effort to help break down the tribal nature of our social discourse.