A reflection from Brooke Gladstone of WNYC’s On The Media on why using social media is more often dishearenting than uplifting.
Brooke is one of my favorite media commentators, and in this audio essay she looks at how the competition between T-Series and PewDiePie may illuminate uncomfortable truths about human nature, and how internet companies gamify it, more than it might say anything about personal or group ideologies and bigotries.
I'm guessing that not many of you ever did care about him. But this show is about big symbolic issues. So I'll end on the ones addressed earlier this hour, the perils of capitalism and what happens when the basic human need for attention is denied and wrap them both up in the saga of PewDiePie. This week Eli Pariser wrote in Time magazine about restoring dignity to technology. And he drew on the work of Harvard researcher Donna Hicks, who tracked how violent conflict around the world arises from assaults to human dignity. How being excluded stimulates the same part of the brain as a physical wound. Pariser laid out how online platforms like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube threaten our dignity. Ignoring what we want and distracting us with what we don't, so that we stay and stay and stay.
Eager eyeballs, angry eyeballs, anguished eyeballs are all worth the same. PewDiePie knows this and he may be sorry, but not that sorry. Extrapolate to the culture, it's not hard and you'll see that it doesn't respect us either. I used to blame human nature for the messes we made online and off. But I'm starting to realize that our natures are plastic. We could be enticed easily to be our better selves but we wouldn't be worth as much. Because we wouldn't need to stay so long.