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How the Internet Divides Us
Old 01-17-2017, 09:06 AM   #1
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How the Internet Divides Us

A good article on something I've noted a few times lately. I was convinced the internet would bring us all together, but it hasn't worked out that way in my experience. And the author notes a cure, but it's so much against the grain I doubt many people would have the will if they were aware of how siloed many of us have become. Overall, people are more emboldened by their views, and more likely to lash out against others than ever?

How the Internet divides us - Barry Carter
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The great promise of the Internet is that it would bring us all together, that it would do away with all the things that divide us and expose us to new ways of thinking. In the early days it was such a novelty to speak to someone and ask them questions knowing that their life was completely different to yours. The Internet promised an end to tribalism and to bring us all together.

The Internet has fulfilled some of these promises and done countless wonderful things in addition. However, the way we use parts of the Internet has actually done the opposite, most notably social media. Rather than use it to meet new people, increasingly we use it to meet people just like us. If you have an interest in animal rights, you are going to see more news and conversations about animal rights on your online portals. If you are a Star Trek enthusiast, you will think that the whole world shares your passion.

We might not gravitate towards those who are near or related to us anymore, but we do gravitate towards people who agree with us, and shun those who don’t. Websites like Facebook have exposed us to the deep political views of our extended families and acquaintances in a way we never were before. The perceived safety of online discourse has done away with the important give and take of polite discourse. The combination of the two means we are either falling out with or ignoring those who do not match up with us perfectly.

This is not a new thing. This is a digital form of ingroup preference, an evolutionary driver in all of us to favor those in our ‘group’ at the expense of those who are not.

It’s not hostility towards other people, its love for one’s own group. This is, however, also the thing that does bring out hatred towards others.

The Internet has allowed us to move away from the traditional ingroup and outgroup bias away from our immediate peer group and towards groups based on interests and ideologies. We now live in a time where we can identify more with someone a thousand miles away because of a video game that we both like, rather than our immediate neighbors and family who arguably have much more say in our day-to-day lives.

It’s a wonderful thing that in 2016 we can take such an active interest in so many things and meet people who share our interests. Having ingroup preference is an evolutionary necessity to feel part of something bigger than ourselves. The problem is that we are in danger of losing something along the way. We are in danger of losing those serendipitous encounters that lead to new and exciting experiences, because it is so much easier to tread the path we already know.

The bigger danger is that we are heading towards a form of ghettoisation of opinion and groupthink. We are losing empathy for people who have different views from us because it is so easy to avoid difference of opinion.

To quote FIRE lawyer Greg Lukianoff (as I often do), who was speaking about viewpoint diversity : “If you’re intellectual you should consider it a duty to seek out smart people with whom you disagree. We could do a lot to combat this trend.”
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Old 01-17-2017, 09:13 AM   #2
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I think there are (numerous) positives as well that, maybe, just don't get the spotlight. This is a lot like other (conventional, broadcast) media as well. Maybe liken it to "ratings".

I think the positives, IMHO, FAR outweigh the negatives. Not so much the social aspects, but what it (the "interwebs") allows in day-to-day life and technological improvements. The social (downside) is a side-effect/necessary evil in my opinion.

I think the seedy, negative side of things always get the most attention.
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Old 01-17-2017, 09:52 AM   #3
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IMHO, "siloed" thinking on the extreme on how that divides us is similar to road rage. We get to thinking that our view (like our driving) is the only correct way, and when others are different and interfere, there can be a shoot first, ask questions later mentality.

That said, I can't blame the internet and internet's social media tools fully. IMHO, if there's a jerk, loose cannon behind Twitter (for example, but could be any other platform), the tool isn't the root cause but the person should be responsible to show some restraint.

The internet and all this technology is definitely a double edged sword, in more ways than one.
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Old 01-17-2017, 11:29 AM   #4
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Quote:
To quote FIRE lawyer Greg Lukianoff (as I often do), who was speaking about viewpoint diversity : “If you’re intellectual you should consider it a duty to seek out smart people with whom you disagree. We could do a lot to combat this trend.”
I try to do so, but easier said than done. These days most of such people seem happier in their little mental echo chamber rather than periodically having a polite intellectual debate.
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Old 01-17-2017, 12:21 PM   #5
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I agree with the premise of the article and I think Google is a prime example. If you have a Google account, (and use Chrome) then Google pretty much knows what your interests are. Of course, on the surface this is used for targeted ads. BUT...what happens is that when you search for something, then your results are targeted as well. So, when you click on a page (and spend a little time there), Google will now tailor your future results for what you "like". This makes it pretty hard to see the other side of many, many things and helps solidify one's beliefs...even if they aren't true.

Much more has been written on this subject, so I won't bore you with more details. I look at it like this...I take EVERYTHING I read online with a grain of salt and my #1 question that I ask when I read something that purports to answer some questions is, "Why is that answer the most correct and what motivation does the author/website have?"
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Old 01-17-2017, 12:53 PM   #6
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Ironically, I'd thought that the Internet's ready access to data would help us come to a consensus on issues, but now everyone seems to also have their own facts.
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Old 01-17-2017, 12:58 PM   #7
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We had government-mandated school integration, which had several goals and included the idea that children exposed to those of other ethinicities would be more accepting of other ethnicities as an adult.

Maybe there will be government-mandated integration idea that people recieve about the world. At random intervals, when a user clicks on a Talking Point Memo link, text from Conservative Review fills the page. Or when someone goes to read a Mark Levine commentary, text written by Rachel Maddow shows up. (Note: previous suggestion is facetious)

There was a lot wrong when folks got their news and perspectives from three networks and their daily paper, but at least we all started from a baseline of relatively common facts about what had happened/who actually said what. Now, we don't even begin from that point. I wouldn't want to go back, but it will be good if we can find a way to address this problem.

A related note on the growing "disconnectedness" we experience from our local neighbors is in Putnam's book "Bowling Alone."
From Amazon:
Quote:
Drawing on vast new data that reveal Americans’ changing behavior, Putnam shows how we have become increasingly disconnected from one another and how social structures—whether they be PTA, church, or political parties—have disintegrated.
The book was published in 2000, and in it Putnam decried the decreased political involvement of people. I think today he'd have something different to say--we are active politically within our virtual online communities of like believers, but remain disconnected from each other on a local social level which formerly had encouraged interaction across ideological lines.
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Old 01-17-2017, 03:54 PM   #8
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I don't know about that premise. I have been a member of several different online forums for nearly 20 years, and although there are definitely "group think" dynamics that operate, there has also been plenty of divergence of opinion, disagreement, debate, etc.

That's what makes an interesting community to me. If everything was always harmonious all the time, I would find it boring and assume something was wrong. I would know individual differences were being squelched somehow.

In groups, no matter how diverse, you always get the self-reinforcing "in group" mentality to some degree. But you know, that is also very true of families and neighborhoods as well, the thing the writer and Putnam hold up as sort of ideals. In fact, families and neighborhoods can put a lot more pressure for conformity of opinion and "group think" on people than the internet does.

So I don't know. I think some of us have a higher tolerance for differences of opinion, and so maybe we cultivate that in our choice of online groups and interactions. Other people might feel more anxious or uncomfortable about that, and so they seek out groups that are more of the "echo chamber" variety.
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Old 01-17-2017, 04:00 PM   #9
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This concept has me very glad I'm not one of those who always seeks out like-minded people. Growing up in a large, cosmopolitan and very diverse city, it was just natural that there would be the whole gamut of humanity around.

Try to ride the NYC subway without rubbing elbows with every kind of person you can imagine (and some you can't). That's a good thing in my book.
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Old 01-17-2017, 04:54 PM   #10
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It's called the 'filter bubble' and a very real issue imo.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filter_bubble

Really hard to avoid these days.

Also, it's not just online. Offline we have a.o. gated communities and real estate rules and prices grouping similar people together. Big cities tend to segregate as well.

The most insidious aspect is that we start to think that others are more similar to us than they really are.

Last but not least, since it's easier to find like minded people we (I) no longer get forced into getting along with the other kinds so much. If anything, this forum is a prime example. That puts a damper on our social skills and empathy.

Not that I'm complaining .. it makes my life easier and more pleasant most of the time. But arguably society worse off.
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How the Internet Divides Us
Old 01-17-2017, 07:07 PM   #11
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How the Internet Divides Us

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Originally Posted by travelover View Post
Ironically, I'd thought that the Internet's ready access to data would help us come to a consensus on issues, but now everyone seems to also have their own facts.
I believe it was ERD50 who said "You are entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts". Very wise.

Diversity of thought is the one form of diversity that is often not mentioned and not wanted. Very sad.
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Old 01-17-2017, 07:23 PM   #12
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I believe it was ERD50 who said "You are entitled to their own opinion, but not to your own facts". Very wise.

Diversity of thought is the one form of diversity that is often not mentioned and not wanted. Very sad.
Yea, I think Moynihan heard it from ERD50.

Quote by Daniel Patrick Moynihan: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but no...”
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Old 01-17-2017, 07:24 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Totoro View Post

Also, it's not just online. Offline we have a.o. gated communities and real estate rules and prices grouping similar people together. Big cities tend to segregate as well.

The most insidious aspect is that we start to think that others are more similar to us than they really are.
Right, it's not just online. It's been part of human nature and human socializing forever. I'm not sure if the 'net is making it better or worse or both.

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I believe it was ERD50 who said "You are entitled to their own opinion, but not to your own facts". Very wise.



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Growing up in a large, cosmopolitan and very diverse city, it was just natural that there would be the whole gamut of humanity around.

Try to ride the NYC subway without rubbing elbows with every kind of person you can imagine (and some you can't). That's a good thing in my book.
Yup, as long as it's just elbows.
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Old 01-17-2017, 08:56 PM   #14
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Why do people always bring up gated communities? I live in a gated 55+ community, and there are a really wide range of political opinions and attitudes in the neighborhood.
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Old 01-17-2017, 08:59 PM   #15
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I knew there was something I liked about Moynihan - he followed this forum.
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Old 01-17-2017, 09:22 PM   #16
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Why do people always bring up gated communities? I live in a gated 55+ community, and there are a really wide range of political opinions and attitudes in the neighborhood.
Because you can't get in w/o a card. Exclusive.

Build another wall.
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Old 01-17-2017, 09:43 PM   #17
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Because you can't get in w/o a card. Exclusive.

Build another wall.
The problem is the assumption that anyone who lives in a gated community lives there because it is gated. I live in one in spite of it being gated. I didn't set out to buy in a gated community. But we needed a community where we could have pets without a strict numerical limit so it needed to be an acreage community and we looked around and the only place that met our criteria for everything else was a gated community. So, we bought here. I can assure you I most certainly do not agree with my neighbors about everything. I would prefer not to live in a gated community (there are many negatives to them beyond exclusivity), but it wasn't enough of a factor to cause me to reject a community that had all the other criteria I wanted.
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Old 01-17-2017, 10:19 PM   #18
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Interesting. The city where I live has a max of 4, no "farm animals", but people here have chickens, I can hear the roosters. Go figure.

Whenever I hear of gated communities I think of rich and/or paranoid. Exclusive. Go away, we don't want you.
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Old 01-17-2017, 11:07 PM   #19
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Interesting. The city where I live has a max of 4, no "farm animals", but people here have chickens, I can hear the roosters. Go figure.

Whenever I hear of gated communities I think of rich and/or paranoid. Exclusive. Go away, we don't want you.
In my experience that hasn't been the motivation. It may be true of some people, but not most. I have lived in this gated community and one that was semi-gated. That is, in this one, the streets are private and maintained by the residents. So the subdivision can be literally gated and not allow the public in. This is in a semi-rural area.

The other one was in the city (although a suburb). In that case, the roads were public so they could not actually gate the subdivision. They did have a guard shack up front and they would ask people coming in where they were going. Most people thought it was gated, but actually the people up front had no power to stop anyone coming in at all.

Anyway, based upon those 2 places I would put the motivations as primarily:

1. Cut down on through traffic
2. Safety/protect property
3. Desire not to be subject to traffic regulations

I think that number 1 is the primary motivation for many people. In both subdivisions I lived in there was no through traffic. Basically the only people in the subdivision lived here or were visiting someone. In the first subdivision kids regularly played in the cul de sac and there was so little traffic that it sure seemed safer (I'm not sure it was as safe as it seemed) in terms of traffic. As someone who now does a lot of walking in my subdivision it is nice to not have to worry about much traffic.

I will add that in the current subdivision a lot of people either have dogs and/or horses. If you have horses, you are allowed to ride on the rode so the lower traffic is a factor.

2. There is a perception that a gated community is safer in terms of people
breaking in, vandalism, etc. Honestly, I don't really think that makes a lot of difference. In my current community it is totally easy for someone to come in who doesn't live here. Just wait at the front gate for someone to open the gate with their remote and follow them in. I live in a very safe area and I don't feel that my subdivision is any safer than the non-gated one not too far away.

3. Local speed limits and driving rules by and large don't apply here (I think reckless driving does which can result in an arrest, but not just regular speeding). So the subdivision has speed limit signs but they are meaningless. We also have speed bumps which are annoying. The big thing (and why I don't really like the gated community) is that people can let their kids drive -- kids without drivers licenses. There are a lot of them who drive through the subdivision using golf carts or off road vehicles and many of them drive in a way that I don't find very safe. I personally find this a huge downside but there are many people in the subdivision who like that there under driving age kids can drive in the subdivision....
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Old 01-17-2017, 11:34 PM   #20
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Ironically, I'd thought that the Internet's ready access to data would help us come to a consensus on issues, but now everyone seems to also have their own facts.
Yep, but when that fails, some of us just make them up.
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