Writing for Real Life, Adam Kotsko explores how social media, and the internet in general, has become a space for savage judgement rather than civil dialogue. Kotsko suggests that this has less to do with any inherent human drive to humiliate others than with the specific architecture of social media and its ad-driven nature. Here's an excerpt from the piece:
Whatever else the internet is, then, the hegemony of these forms of social media have turned it into an increasingly efficient machine for judgment — for passing judgment, for eliciting judgment, for soliciting judgment. And the more attention you attract, the more likely it becomes that you will face an overwhelming backlash of negative judgment. Andy Warhol famously asserted that in the future, everyone would be famous for 15 minutes, but he didn’t specify what form that fame might take. Were he still alive, he might now say that in the future, everyone will be hated by thousands of strangers for 15 minutes.
Why are we so addicted to judgment, both dishing it out and receiving it? Perhaps that question can be answered by reframing it: Why do we turn away from — or, in many cases, preemptively reject — dialogue? In one sense, this may seem like a false dichotomy. After all, what is agreement or disagreement, or even the simple weighing of an argument, if not a judgment? Indeed, Kant goes so far as to characterize every mental act as one of judgment. What is new and distinctive about social media judgments is, first, that they foreground and render explicit what was previously implicit — above all by quantifying approval. Second, and more insidiously, they direct the force of judgment away from the “content” of the exchange and toward its participants.
By means of this amplification and redirection of our faculty of judgment, the forms of social media built on metrics tend to breed certitude and spite rather than the critical distance from one’s own views and a willingness to entertain those of others that dialogue requires. But it’s not just a question of our having picked up bad habits from social media. The truth is that dialogue is risky, because your efforts may not be rewarded with new insight. Indeed, you may be played for a fool by a bad-faith interlocutor who is purposefully trying to waste your time or even elicit condemnable statements from you.
Image: Too Much Thought by Chrome Destroyer. Via Real Life.