Social media platforms have helped fuel political polarization and incitements to violence across the globe, from the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar to the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. (via NPR.com)
This is because algorithms consistently select content that evokes anger and outrage from its users to maximize engagement. And sometimes, those extreme emotions turn into extreme actions.
New York Times reporter Max Fisher took a deep dive into the impact of social media in his book, “The Chaos Machine: The Inside Story of How Social Media Rewired Our Minds and Our World.” He shares with us how platform leaders have prioritized profit and growth over safeguards and how the polarizing effect of social media is only speeding up.
“Remember that the number of seconds in your day never changes. The amount of social media content competing for those seconds, however, doubles every year or so, depending on how you measure it. Imagine, for instance, that your network produces 200 posts a day of which you have time to read about 100. Because of the platform’s tilt, you will see the most outraged half of your feed. Next year, when 200 doubles to 400, you will see the most outraged quarter, the year after that the most outraged eighth. Over time, your impression of your own community becomes radically more moralizing, aggrandizing, and outraged, and so do you, at the same time, less innately engaging forms of content. Truth appeals to the greater good, appeals to tolerance, become more and more outmatched, like stars over Times Square.”
— An excerpt from The Chaos Machine
Listen to the 12-minute podcast on this topic at NPR.com.