How 'online garbage' is making us miserable
With technological advances continuing to evolve, so does the existence of negative media and misinformation. A new analysis written by The Atlantic's Charlie Warzel highlights the discussions presented Richard Seymour's book titled, The Twittering Machine.
Seymour noted that if social media “confronts us with a string of calamities—addiction, depression, ‘fake news,’ trolls, online mobs, alt-right subcultures—it is only exploiting and magnifying problems that are already socially pervasive.” He adds, “If we’ve found ourselves addicted to social media, in spite or because of its frequent nastiness … then there is something in us that’s waiting to be addicted.”
So, why is this? "Misery, famously, loves company—and, however shallow, social media provides that in droves."
Warzel goes on to analyze how the internet and social media could have a tendency to perpetuate misery. "It’s worth asking," Warzel wrote, "What if the internet so frequently feels miserable, and makes those of us posting and reacting feel miserable, because so many people are miserable in the first place? What if we all absorb that misery at scale online and, sometimes unwittingly, inflict it on one another?"
The writer also offered details about a startling revelation regarding the average life expectancy in the United States and how suicides and overdoses, described as "deaths of despair," have spiked over the last two decades. "
"From 1959 to 2014, the average life expectancy in the United States increased by nine years. Since then, the trend has reversed, and the pandemic led to a sharp decline—life expectancy dropped by a full year in 2020. According to data collected by the Brookings Institution, from 2005 to 2019, an average of 70,000 Americans died annually from “deaths of despair,” such as overdose and suicide."
So how does online negativity continue to subtly wreak havoc in the world of social media? Warzel notes that the reason it continues to circulate is because there is always someone reading it.
"Online garbage (whether political and scientific misinformation or racist memes) is also created because there’s an audience for it. The internet, after all, is populated by people—billions of them. Their thoughts and impulses and diatribes are grist for the algorithmic content mills. When we talk about engagement, we are talking about them. They—or rather, we—are the ones clicking. We are often the ones telling the platforms, 'More of this, please.'"
However, he did explain how he personally monitors the information he's exposed to. "When I open my doom machine now, I try, as best I can, to see past the abstraction," Warzel wrote. "I try to remember that the internet is powered by real, live people. It’s a frightening thought. But also, maybe, a hopeful one."
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