Opinion philosophy

Social Media as Serial Socialization

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Think about what Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, and Instagram really are. They aren’t antisocial applications. They are forms of serial socialization. Imagine living on earth around 3000 years ago, you would have known only a few people at a time.

You may have been around more people, but they are the same people. Over a lifetime, you may not have seen more than a thousand people. But with the internet, we have all become serial socializers, we know so many more people. But how does this change us? It does two things. The first is that it destroys any illusions of safety. When you are exposed to less information and people, you are more likely to conform to the ideals you have been taught, and this will give you a sense of reassurance.

But if you are exposed to everything, at all times, then this sense of security is destroyed.You will not have a compass you can rely on, you are thrown into the unknown, and you must figure things out for yourself. The journey that results brings me to the second consequence of serial socialization. And that is a more interdependent identity. You no longer see yourself as an individual, or as a part of a group that is opposed to the rest of the world.

You see yourself as part of a global community, and what unites each person is not the accident of their personal identity, but the accident of their personal thoughts. And this is a very interesting development. For the first time in history, people can now form identities based on shared values. This is like a hyper-fast version of an urban city like New York.

Social media has created a disembodied collective consciousness. If you want to think of mankind as a super-organism, and it’s consciousness as a neural net, then social media acts like its pen. It is what writing did for individual societies many centuries ago. But this time, it is for the entire super-organism. It has democratized access to information, to knowledge, and opinion almost completely.

Of course, the picture is not only rosy. There is tremendous empowerment when it comes to social media, but we cannot forget about its flaws. So far we have explored two. One is the destruction of safety, two is the creation of sub-communities based on common thoughts. Three is the creation of echo chambers that fosters the feelings of group safety that was initially lost.

Social media has become a breeding ground for echo chambers. The flip side of being united by ideas is that a collection of ideas is often nothing more than a dogma, and if that is what unites you with other people, there is no guarantee that the character of your conversations are no less dogmatic and intolerant than those of nation states and religious cults.

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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