[LISTEN] Is social media making us dumber?

We can surely disagree without hating each other? Wouldn’t it be strange if we did, in fact, agree on everything, suggests Eusebius McKaiser.

One of the issues society seems to be grappling with is how to effectively communicate with others who hold different values, experiences, academic background, and socio-economic views.

South African academic, secular activist and social commentator Jacques Rousseau chats to Eusebius about the context of the article, ‘Social media is making us dumber, here’s exhibit A.’

Rousseau says that Harvard professor, Steven Pinker used examples to make the point that if you just react with outrage, as opposed to thinking about things in a historical context, you could receive a false impression which could then feed into your biases.

The claim that the article author is making is that social media is making us dumber because we just take a snapshot of something, and react based on that as opposed to the big picture says Rousseau.

He adds that people have more access to information and opinions in the online space, as opposed to before which makes it a more democratic space.

People who feel strongly about a topic are always going to be more likely to contribute to it.

Jacques Rousseau, South African academic, secular activist and social commentator

Rousseau says before public platforms like Facebook and Twitter came into existence, people who had influence in public discourse used to get there through some kind of gateway mechanism - be that celebrities, the president, TV personality, or talk show host).

Now, however, anybody who says something outrageous can establish a large online following, and therefore be deemed as influential, he adds.

We’re only discovering what the problems of social media are now.

Jacques Rousseau, South African academic, secular activist and social commentator

Rousseau says that advertising revenue decisions usually seep into our consciousness. He adds that the posts Facebook decides to promote may be the ones that get the most attention, clicks and likes.

You see something coming up all the time, and your instinctive reaction is to say, oh this must be important, but meanwhile it’s just a consequence of ad revenue.

Jacques Rousseau, South African academic, secular activist and social commentator

The ease with which content can be published today does not mean all content is equal, he says.

Click on the link below to hear more of Jacques views on social media...


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