“I don’t understand what you’re saying about X but I got an opinion on X just the same.”

Stupidity should never be venerated.

Understand what is being said about a topic and then evaluate the new information, absorbing it into your own evolving opinion.

“You can tell me facts all you like but nothing’s going to change my mind.”

Ignorance should never be celebrated. It’s deplorable.

Try asking yourself about any subject or opposing belief: “what information, what circumstances, what facts would change my mind about the subject or belief?” If the answer is nothing at all, then you’re choosing to be ignorant and you’re part of the problem. The answer should never be nothing at all.

“There’s a lot of pointless chatter in the world. I prefer to break a thing down to the yes/no true/false parts. That way I cut through the bullshit and my opinions have a firm foundation.”

It’s possible to reduce most things to a binary YES NO if we simplify far enough. Sometimes this is valid, like if it speaks to first principles.

But mostly it’s not a good basis for extrapolating truth. Worse still if the simplified binary YES NO gets used to make rules that then get applied to real life, it ignores context and nuance.

“I believe in free speech. It’s a yes or no principle. I say yes. The first amendment makes yes the law of the land.”

  • What about hate speech?
  • What about incitement to violence?
  • What about lying?
  • What about using amplified platform to speak falsehood to an audience of unknowns who’ll take it at gospel?
  • What about intrusion on personal space?
  • What about the conflict of ideas?
  • What about unequal revelation?
  • What about a parent’s right to raise his/her children true to deeply held faith, without life-threatening info in the name of education?
  • What about social media, private corporations with unpredictable power to regulate free speech?
  • What about censorship by corporation on behalf of individual ideology?
  • What’s the difference between corporate speech and citizen speech?
  • Do corporations have the same rights of first amendment free speech as individuals?
  • Do free speech laws change in groups?
  • Should large-scale assembly speech be regulated by an authority?
  • Should free speech regulation ever be forcibly enforced?
  • Etc. Etc.

“I want Law and Order. Trump backs crackdown on chaos. Trump is for Law and Order.”

But Trump is the President. Isn’t he responsible for unrest – for society breakdown – for breakdown of law and order, on his watch? Why doesn’t he get held responsible?

“Social media is a cesspool of anonymous unaccountable sock puppets, talking point bots, incel trolling and everybody shouting at once their opinions about everything. All locked in echo-chambers divided by specious political tribalism.”

There are bad actors in every population. Millions of active social media users are no exception. But the lack of nuance and the susceptibility to mob mentalities come from a lack of personal engagement by thread originators. It wouldn’t exist face to face.

“Social media brings out the worst in everyone. Mainly because there’s no accountability. You can say what you want and there’re no consequences when you act like an a$$hole.”

This abuse of ‘no accountability’ applies to bad actors but not to the average user of social media. In reality, it’s not that person A wouldn’t say X to person B, but person B would respond to person A if the interactions were face to face. Instead, it’s person B abusing ‘no consequences’ to ignore (rudely) person A. Magnify this dynamic by a billion frustrated interactions and online conversation grows toxic.

“Why should I respond to every message on my social media? I reply where I can, especially to the most annoying or deplorable comments. What’s so bad about using my finite time to hit the best and the worst, to make a difference?”

We see messages and place them on a spectrum from extreme positive to extreme (violently) negative. At the spectrum midpoint are the more ambiguous comments that take genuine reflection to answer. Those middle-of-the-spectrum comments are seldom offensive (or solely sycophantic) Nor are they lowest common denominator. Trouble is, ambiguity and nuance is time consuming to engage personally. Most of us are too lazy to bother. It’s easier to virtue signal or shit-talk or stress (again) familiar talking points. Autopilot.

We’re trained to pick out the most familiar, extreme negative comments in a thread and respond to lowest common denominator groupthink. It’s self-serving. Why? Because it requires least effort to pick out opposing groupthink and, by virtuously firing back a tried and tested takedown, we absolve ourselves of the lazy hypocrisy and win quick, easy self-satisfaction. Nuanced comments – which are personal, not automated or we ignore trolling.

And then we tell ourselves Twitter is to blame for the dysfunctional environment. What a crock. We’re to blame.

“I’m not convinced this is true. How do I test this?”

Find a bunch of social media users who’re running their own account. It shouldn’t be people you know. You can tell this by checking their profile and their messages. It should be personalized. It should have specific comments including replies (follow-ups) to real-world events, not delegated to a staff member to automate or manage.

Try sending messages or making comments that fit the ‘extremely negative groupthink’ and then ‘extremely positive ingratiating’ and finally ‘ambiguous, nuanced, thoughtful’. Let’s call the negative A, the positive B and the nuanced thoughtful C.

According to our initial 30-day experiment and subsequently adjusted by results sent by readers of this page, the percentage weight of responses to the three categories:

81% A (negative)

13% B (positive)

6% C (nuanced)

Feel free to send us your own results if you run your own tests. We will add the results to the numbers we’ve already collected.