How Facebook is Slowly Tearing Apart Society

Are you not entertained? Still in progress…

About 15 years ago, when Mark Zuckerberg and some of his classmates started Facebook out of their Harvard dorm rooms, not even the young founders could have imagined the extent to which their website would impact the social fabric.

They opened Pandora’s Box and over time exposed some of the most primitive and cruel human drives.

Large-scale, social experiments are difficult to predict, especially if their evolution is guided by the desires of the masses.

This is because fundamentally social interactions with our surrounding are guided by some of the most basic human drives. Among them are the drives for sex, power and violence.

Facebook became an open-ended social experiment, that over time evolved its functionality to become more addictive to the users and more entertaining for the crowd.

Are you not entertained?

We human’s naturally think short-term, and one aspect many users did not realize is that this interaction is very long-term and evolves throughout our lives as we go from good times to bad times to good times to bad times.

These changes in fortune and changes in circumstances are part of everyones life and are unavoidable. Everyone will eventually deal with misfortune, including loss of a loved one, health issues, an accident and eventually death.

And the crowd will react accordingly to all these changes.

For the first time in human history, we digitally stay in touch with most people we get to know throughout our lives. This is an unprecedented social phenomenon, since in the past we only stayed in touch with those with whom we closely interacted and probably had much stronger relationships with and much more in common.

But now everyone we meet becomes part of our Facebook show.

Interestingly, humans tend to show a lot more empathy and compassion for people we do not know personally than those we do know personally. And this is an important factor in our Facebook interactions.

This is because we tend to compare ourselves to those we know personally and those around us, hence we are more likely to exhibit a competitive nature towards them, instead of empathy or compassion.

For many of our connections on Facebook, people whom we know personally but only briefly in real life, our relationships are not necessary benevolent. Unconsciously they are much more hostile.

Hence when the bad times strike someone, in the collective of that large social graph, the crowd reacts accordingly.

Even if one’s social graph has many people, who have benevolent predisposition towards someone, there will also be many people that have the exact opposite predisposition.

At the root of this phenomenon is the German word “Schadenfreude”, which means joy over someone’s misfortune.

And ironically, since the crowd is so big, that collective “Schadenfreude” strikes one at the most unfavorable time, when one is in need for the most emotional support.

Over time many similar crowd phenomena are emerging on Facebook.

I remember a while ago Evan Spiegel saying that over time people will realize that competing with our friends over likes and attention is in the long-run not that pleasant.

The reality is much more drastic!

Facebook is giving rise to much more cruel and primitive human drives and phenomena, because it is guided by the crowd, without a referee.

So the crowd can just indulge itself over someone’s misfortune.

Are you not entertained?

Two aspects that amplify this Schadenfreude phenomenon is something we can call Timing Mismatch and Information Bias.

  • Timing Mismatch

At any given time there are X number of people that are going through a good time and a Y number of people that are going through a bad time.

This timing mismatch creates a lot more potential for jealousy, as the Y people observe the X people’s good times during their own bad times.

So when the X people encounter bad times, the Y people will react accordingly due to an accumulated resentment over X’s previous good times.

They will exhibit Schadenfreude.

  • Information Bias

Also since our Facebook show is self-selected and is not an accurate and complete representation of our lives, our real circumstances can be easily misinterpreted.

In addition, everyone perceives someone else’s information from their own perspective and hence is also likely to misinterpret that.

So this creates additional layers of misunderstandings, which only contribute to more adverse outcomes.

This creates a lot more jealousy than is warranted by the actual circumstances and together with Timing Mismatch amplifies Schadenfreude.

Are you not entertained?

To be continued…

The Oracle