Social media brings out the ‘Mr. Hyde’ in us

We humans love anonymity. From our beginning, we have been fascinated with masks and disguises. It’s ironic that we struggle much of our lives to be recognized, then negate our achievement by donning a mask. If we can be assured that no one will recognize us, we will do things we wouldn’t dare do as ourselves. Anonymity allows us to carry out our dirtiest deeds and leave our reputations unsoiled.

Such cynical thoughts occurred to me last week as I read the many accounts in the media about Facebook’s current problems. The first had to do with the psychological effects that Facebook’s photo-posting platform, Instagram, is having on young females. Apparently, the girls look at pictures of other girls who have more “likes,” become depressed and suffer from a “poor self-image.” This is not news. Most teenage girls have problems with self-image. I suspect if Eve hadn’t apparently skipped puberty or if she’d had any competition around the Garden, she would have suffered from a “poor self-image” also. (Though not, certainly, until after she bit into that apple.)

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The second problem involved not only Facebook, but nearly all social media. It seems that their own studies show that misinformation provokes six times more “interactions” (views, likes, responses) than do factual news items. And the more these interactions stir the pot, the more advertising Facebook and the others can sell. It’s like an agitator goading a couple of neighbors into fighting on the corner; then, when the whole neighborhood turns out to watch, encouraging everyone to get involved — after which the agitator sells tickets to the brouhaha.

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