The Evoutionary Root of the Internet Hate Machine

Faces in the Crowd: Tampa, Florida, late 1990s (photo by author)

Being Human in an Age of Social Media

If our evolutionary heritage didn’t prepare us for living in groups bigger than a couple hundred people or so, it definitely didn’t prepare us for social media.

Mass-Produced Synthetic Rage

The Internet is a hate machine, fine-tuned to manufacture outrage in industrial quantities. Part of that is deliberate engineering, of course. Engagement drives revenue. Waving pitchforks and screaming for the heads of the heathens is “engagement.” Outrage sells, so Adam Smith’s ruthless invisible hand has shaped social media into high-efficiency outrage generation machines.

On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a manipulator

The thing about parasocial interactions is your brain really wasn’t meant for them. You tend, when you interact with someone one or two steps removed, to see only a curated version of them — but at the same time, emotionally, the ancient parts of your brain will respond as if this was a person who’s a member of your family, who you can trust implicitly.

Don’t be a sucker

What’s the solution?

Image: Adam Nemeroff

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