Twitter founder: Trump election shows social media helping to 'dumb the entire world

Text-only Version: Click HERE to see this thread with all of the graphics, features, and links.



Sable
Link

Digi
I think "dumb down the entire world" is indefensible as you can really provide evidence for or against such a sweeping claim. However, what I'd agree with is that it dumbs down our day-to-day discourse. There isn't a political topic on the planet that isn't insanely nuanced and/or complicated. Long-form journalism is pretty much the only online medium through which I've ever felt like I truly learned something about a topic. It's why I limit my (political) media consumption to sites devoted to such an approach. But that also doesn't get clicks, or allow everyone into the conversation so easily. So you see the divide.

There isn't a good solution. Clickbaiters and social media rabble rousers are gonna do their thing. It's a personal decision to avoid it for more thorough discussion. And teaching that has to be grassroots (i.e. education). Bringing the educational and economic levels of the bottom percentages of society up to a stable level is probably the only way to create systemic change that doesn't gravitate toward things like 140-character political hot-takes and the cult of personality it seems to engender.

I think the article - and the quotes it uses - kind of get at the same point. So yeah, it's nothing new, but is an alarming trend. I saw some compelling research about how we also insulate ourselves online in terms of our worldviews, interacting with and visiting only those sites that reinforce what we already think. In that sense, Williams's comment that access to information doesn't necessarily make us smarter is entirely true. In a large majority of instances, it only reinforces what we already know; or, more problematically, what we think we know.

BackFire
Digi, what sites do you recommend for such journalism?

Digi
Originally posted by BackFire
Digi, what sites do you recommend for such journalism?

FiveThirtyEight is my favorite. They do have some liberal leanings, and balance the long-form stuff with more pandering punditry, so I can't say it's a truly neutral site. But they do two things that I like: one, they lean heavily on data, and scrutinize the data they use. And two, they're willing to admit when they're wrong. So like, they were wrong about the election (like every other pollster and predictor). But they admitted and analyzed their incorrect assumptions afterward and were closer than pretty much anyone bc they didn't simply follow the "it's Clinton's to lose" zeitgeist and they properly hedged by speaking in probabilistic terms. Those who followed the site were thus surprised but not entirely shocked at Trump winning, as they understood that his chances were roughly the same as, say, a 5-point underdog in a football game. Imo, there's no better polling aggregator out there, nor a site better qualified to interpret election results.

It helps that they also cover cultural and sports topics. Good pallet cleansers between political articles, which can be a downer if that's ALL you're reading.

I also enjoy LongReads, though that trends cultural more than political (though both can be found).

Another is Priceonomics, another data-centric site that trends toward economic topics, as the name would suggest. Just interesting stuff. Mostly, I enjoy writing that - if it's going to take a stand on some topic instead of being, say, a human interest or artistic piece - focuses on what we can actually know, and interpreting that information reliably. Long-form isn't the only way that can be done, but it's one of the better ways imo.

Links:
http://fivethirtyeight.com/
https://longreads.com/
https://priceonomics.com/

...it's probably no surprise that I like my videos the same way. So like, I didn't mind John Stewart, but didn't love him either. But John Oliver is amazing to me, because he'll take a whole half hour to dig deep into a topic so that we truly understand it, rather than the 3-4 minutes nearly any other show will give a topic (or 3-4 minutes of analysis followed by 20-30 minutes of opinions about it from people with an agenda). Oliver has an agenda too, sure, but he's putting in the legwork that others won't and highlighting topics that truly matter.

cdtm
You can learn a lot through various Youtube uploads, if you know where to look..

Sable
Yea so saw this first thing when I clicked on one of your links.

https://longreads.com/2017/09/11/raising-brown-boys-in-post-911-america

Lol

Digi
Haven't read that one, and it's late so I can't read it now. Your response is a version of my point, though. Pointing and laughing isn't meaningful analysis or discussion. I take it you disagree with something in the article's content? That isn't the point. There have been articles I disagree with on those sites too. The point is, it's an in-depth look at a topic, in that case (it seems) through the eyes of a mother who's experienced racism and violence toward her family. Right or wrong in whatever conclusions it draws, it's a launching point for understanding a particular worldview that goes beyond 140 characters.

One of the more interesting long-form pieces I read during the election was from a journalist who conducted in-depth interviews with Trump supporters in numerous states. It revealed real humans with fears and hopes, not just racist caricatures, and drew some insightful conclusions. I wish I could remember what site it was on. But it accomplished the same goal of illuminating a viewpoint, but from a different perspective.

Steve Zodiac
Youtube talking heads are dumbing the world down even more, but I don't disagree with the statement. I look at many posts here, and I can see how stupid the world is.

Flyattractor
Oh how nice to see the Elitist Snobbery in some is still most prevalent.

Surtur
Originally posted by Flyattractor
Oh how nice to see the Elitist Snobbery in some is still most prevalent.

It truly is fascinating lol. They just can't help themselves.

Originally posted by Sable
Yea so saw this first thing when I clicked on one of your links.

https://longreads.com/2017/09/11/raising-brown-boys-in-post-911-america

Lol

[email protected] Trumpistan. One doesn't even need to read beyond that to know exactly what you'll find in the article.

Digi
Originally posted by Surtur
It truly is fascinating lol. They just can't help themselves.

[email protected] Trumpistan. One doesn't even need to read beyond that to know exactly what you'll find in the article.

I have a good friend that had to leave social media after the election, not because she couldn't handle whatever news was coming out, but because of the threats directed at her and her family due to her sexual orientation. It was open season for assholes, and caused her to fear for her personal safety, as well as the safety of her children. She's since moved for similar reasons; multiple lives upturned entirely because of prejudice. These stories don't just exist as fodder for online pundits. They're real.

Yes, that article has an opinion on Trump, and it's just one opinion. But it's based in personal experience, and represents the way many feel about the current climate...again based on personal experience. That you can dismiss it so quickly shows a callous disregard for understanding differing viewpoints.

I also don't want to sit here and defend a single article, especially one I haven't read in full, because it misses my earlier point. If you're really ready to dismiss an entire website based on a single article, the other two are more data-centric and less likely to rankle your sensibilities with overtly opinionated articles.

Sable
Originally posted by Digi
I have a good friend that had to leave social media after the election, not because she couldn't handle whatever news was coming out, but because of the threats directed at her and her family due to her sexual orientation. It was open season for assholes, and caused her to fear for her personal safety, as well as the safety of her children. She's since moved for similar reasons; multiple lives upturned entirely because of prejudice. These stories don't just exist as fodder for online pundits. They're real.

Yes, that article has an opinion on Trump, and it's just one opinion. But it's based in personal experience, and represents the way many feel about the current climate...again based on personal experience. That you can dismiss it so quickly shows a callous disregard for understanding differing viewpoints.

I also don't want to sit here and defend a single article, especially one I haven't read in full, because it misses my earlier point. If you're really ready to dismiss an entire website based on a single article, the other two are more data-centric and less likely to rankle your sensibilities with overtly opinionated articles.

Ok one article is a one off, how about another and another and another?

https://longreads.com/2017/09/13/donald-trumps-house/

Digi
Please try to address my actual point(s). We're having two different conversations here.

Thesis: "I like longform journalism because it gives you a more in-depth look into topics than you get on twitter and in many other modern forms of clickbait-style journalism."
Response: "Defend this specific article that I don't like."

You might not like a specific article, or the leanings of an entire site. Then you can find a new site if you'd like, but I'd encourage you not to. We learn by encountering ideas that are outside our existing beliefs, not be reinforcing them. On that subject, I found the article about Trump supporter interviews I mentioned earlier:
http://www.businessinsider.com/sam-altman-interview-trump-supporters-2017-2
...I would have loved to see even more from those interviews, but I also like that he didn't try to color the responses with his own interpretation. The quotes exist in something of a "spin" vacuum, but are probably better off for it.

The point is that the John Oliver's and FiveThirtyEight's and Longform's of the world are trying to be the anti-Twitter. It's still a conversation; often a contentious one, with viewpoints you might disagree with. But it's a better conversation to be having, because it respects us enough to take the time to tell whole stories, not fragments.

Do you disagree with that? If so, why? What forms of journalism would you prefer to the sites I linked? What merits do they have that you think set them apart?

Sable
No I don't didagree. But berating Trump's childhood home is just another avenue of attack long form of not.

That article is pretty bias and intending to do harm on this persons business which has nothing to do with Trump.

Should the house be torn down. I mean c'mon.

Digi
Forest for the trees, Sable, forest for the trees. smile

Anyway, in doing Google searches for the article I linked above, I found a book that appears to do the same thing. Here's an interview with the author:
http://billmoyers.com/story/chatting-trump-supporters/

I can't vouch for the book, and have only perused the interview, but it seems to be in the same vein of genuinely trying to understand opposing viewpoints in a way that isn't condescending. I bet it would be an interesting read, particularly for those on the left.

Digi
Oh, Adam Ruins Everything. Another good example. His Youtube clips can be - by necessity - shorter than is needed. But the show will spend entire episodes on a single topic and are admirably transparent in their sources, research and even mistakes when they're made.

But like, if you find comments about him on Twitter, they're probably just about how grating his persona is or how weird his hair is.

I used to like Twitter because it allowed me to curate what I saw. Interesting news sites, a few down-to-earth celebs, maybe a Dog pic aggregator or two. I knew it was sh*t for political discussion, so that's not where I went for political discourse. But it's become too caustic to have such a haven anymore, in my experience. More and more I think OP's article is really pretty spot-on.

Robtard
Originally posted by Digi
I think "dumb down the entire world" is indefensible as you can really provide evidence for or against such a sweeping claim. However, what I'd agree with is that it dumbs down our day-to-day discourse. There isn't a political topic on the planet that isn't insanely nuanced and/or complicated. Long-form journalism is pretty much the only online medium through which I've ever felt like I truly learned something about a topic. It's why I limit my (political) media consumption to sites devoted to such an approach. But that also doesn't get clicks, or allow everyone into the conversation so easily. So you see the divide.

There isn't a good solution. Clickbaiters and social media rabble rousers are gonna do their thing. It's a personal decision to avoid it for more thorough discussion. And teaching that has to be grassroots (i.e. education). Bringing the educational and economic levels of the bottom percentages of society up to a stable level is probably the only way to create systemic change that doesn't gravitate toward things like 140-character political hot-takes and the cult of personality it seems to engender.

I think the article - and the quotes it uses - kind of get at the same point. So yeah, it's nothing new, but is an alarming trend. I saw some compelling research about how we also insulate ourselves online in terms of our worldviews, interacting with and visiting only those sites that reinforce what we already think. In that sense, Williams's comment that access to information doesn't necessarily make us smarter is entirely true. In a large majority of instances, it only reinforces what we already know; or, more problematically, what we think we know.

Well said and I did enjoy how the belligerent and lowbrow responses of some here in regards to your posts went on to support what you claimed.

Surtur
Originally posted by Digi
I have a good friend that had to leave social media after the election, not because she couldn't handle whatever news was coming out, but because of the threats directed at her and her family due to her sexual orientation. It was open season for assholes, and caused her to fear for her personal safety, as well as the safety of her children. She's since moved for similar reasons; multiple lives upturned entirely because of prejudice. These stories don't just exist as fodder for online pundits. They're real.

Yes, that article has an opinion on Trump, and it's just one opinion. But it's based in personal experience, and represents the way many feel about the current climate...again based on personal experience. That you can dismiss it so quickly shows a callous disregard for understanding differing viewpoints.

I also don't want to sit here and defend a single article, especially one I haven't read in full, because it misses my earlier point. If you're really ready to dismiss an entire website based on a single article, the other two are more data-centric and less likely to rankle your sensibilities with overtly opinionated articles.

Those things you mentioned are indeed horrid. Threats shouldn't be made, nobody should have to fear for their safety. Having said that, those are personal anecdotes.

As for dismissing the website, I wasn't even saying do that, I was just talking about the one article.

The "Truly fascinating" comment was not directed at you or the site.

Digi
Originally posted by Surtur
Those things you mentioned are indeed horrid. Threats shouldn't be made, nobody should have to fear for their safety. Having said that, those are personal anecdotes.

As for dismissing the website, I wasn't even saying do that, I was just talking about the one article.

The "Truly fascinating" comment was not directed at you or the site.

Fair enough, and cool. By their nature, cultural pieces will often be anecdotal. Human interest stories, even more so. The particular article that inspired my anecdote there straddled that genre line. But that alone isn't always reason enough to dismiss it. The Trump supporter interviews I mentioned are also anecdotal. Hell, even the book on that same subject is. But they can be fascinating, and, yes, representative of larger truths.

And in my friend's case, I'm in the Midwest, but in a large, "blue" city. If that's what can happen here, I shudder at the larger implications, and sometimes you do have to damn the (lack of) data when you can see it happening with your own eyes.

I'm also a writer, so I enjoy good, long reads, where they say *** you to the word count and let people tell their stories well. So while this particular conversation is political in nature, my time spent on Longreads usually isn't politically tinted. It was just tangentially relevant to my "long form" point. Frankly, I get probably 75% of my political news from FiveThirtyEight, and another 10-15% from John Oliver. It's my "bubble," granted, and occasionally risks insulating me. But with the other 10-15% I'd like to think I explore a bit to try to find intelligent discourse that presents differing opinions.

Surtur
Originally posted by Digi
Fair enough, and cool. By their nature, cultural pieces will often be anecdotal. Human interest stories, even more so. The particular article that inspired my anecdote there straddled that genre line. But that alone isn't always reason enough to dismiss it. The Trump supporter interviews I mentioned are also anecdotal. Hell, even the book on that same subject is. But they can be fascinating, and, yes, representative of larger truths.

And in my friend's case, I'm in the Midwest, but in a large, "blue" city. If that's what can happen here, I shudder at the larger implications, and sometimes you do have to damn the data when you can see it happening with your own eyes.

You make some excellent points here, and I wonder about the impact Trump had on this increase in hate. Don't get me wrong he has said some messed up stuff, but IMO they played him up almost as the second coming of Hitler. People keep calling him a white supremacist and it is silly. But I wonder if people saw the rhetoric, believed Trump was as hardcore as they are, and took it to mean it was okay to lash out and be more hateful. Because he never said to discriminate against anyone. Even stuff like what he said about illegals gets turned into "he said all mexicans are rapists".




Interesting, have you written any books?

Digi
Originally posted by Surtur
You make some excellent points here, and I wonder about the impact Trump had on this increase in hate. Don't get me wrong he has said some messed up stuff, but IMO they played him up almost as the second coming of Hitler. People keep calling him a white supremacist and it is silly. But I wonder if people saw the rhetoric, believed Trump was as hardcore as they are, and took it to mean it was okay to lash out and be more hateful. Because he never said to discriminate against anyone. Even stuff like what he said about illegals gets turned into "he said all mexicans are rapists".

There's a lot to unpack here. What I'll say is that I don't think Trump quite grasps how much his words affect this stuff. He just knows that talking about illegal immigrants gets his base into a frenzy, and he likes the attention. I don't think Trump's a white supremacist, or Hitler-level discriminatory (though, let's be honest, there's some legit racism in there), but I think he's willing to use ambiguous or potentially inflammatory language that will play to his base, some of whom do see that as an endorsement of their own prejudice. The frenzy of hate speech that hit towns, cities, internet etc. right after the election was part of this as well.

So I think Trump is culpable for a lot of this, but not necessarily for the reasons people will point to, many of which you correctly criticize. The Charlottesville response from Trump was a great microcosm of this. No, I don't think he supports Nazis. But you could see him equivocating in his words, knowing that too much of a response in the other direction would be an abandonment to the left. But it became a celebration for the actual Nazis, who ate it up with glee.

He might also just be kinda dumb. For example, according to some White House aids, he apparently didn't fully understand the implications of rescinding DACA, which was the rare Obama-era action that has support on both sides of the aisle and would cost the country billions to get rid of (deportations are expensive af). He may have just seen the words "illegal immigrants" and "Obama" attached to it, and decided it needed to go. Which, again, is enough for some (but not all) elements of his base. But in all likelihood, he's not actually as anti-immigrant as rescinding it would make it seem.

Originally posted by Surtur
Interesting, have you written any books?

No, actually. Pretty much all of my writing has been for various jobs I've had, which have been writing-intensive communications positions; collectively I've written hundreds of articles for magazines, newsletters (both online and in print) and for web use, but it's all fairly specific to those companies or industries. I was also a freelancer for a while to supplement my income, but it was again all business pieces for various companies' websites and such. I don't really write for myself. That may change, eventually. But I'm the rare professional writer who doesn't have an unfinished novel on his hard drive.

BackFire
Originally posted by Digi
FiveThirtyEight is my favorite. They do have some liberal leanings, and balance the long-form stuff with more pandering punditry, so I can't say it's a truly neutral site. But they do two things that I like: one, they lean heavily on data, and scrutinize the data they use. And two, they're willing to admit when they're wrong. So like, they were wrong about the election (like every other pollster and predictor). But they admitted and analyzed their incorrect assumptions afterward and were closer than pretty much anyone bc they didn't simply follow the "it's Clinton's to lose" zeitgeist and they properly hedged by speaking in probabilistic terms. Those who followed the site were thus surprised but not entirely shocked at Trump winning, as they understood that his chances were roughly the same as, say, a 5-point underdog in a football game. Imo, there's no better polling aggregator out there, nor a site better qualified to interpret election results.

It helps that they also cover cultural and sports topics. Good pallet cleansers between political articles, which can be a downer if that's ALL you're reading.

I also enjoy LongReads, though that trends cultural more than political (though both can be found).

Another is Priceonomics, another data-centric site that trends toward economic topics, as the name would suggest. Just interesting stuff. Mostly, I enjoy writing that - if it's going to take a stand on some topic instead of being, say, a human interest or artistic piece - focuses on what we can actually know, and interpreting that information reliably. Long-form isn't the only way that can be done, but it's one of the better ways imo.

Links:
http://fivethirtyeight.com/
https://longreads.com/
https://priceonomics.com/

...it's probably no surprise that I like my videos the same way. So like, I didn't mind John Stewart, but didn't love him either. But John Oliver is amazing to me, because he'll take a whole half hour to dig deep into a topic so that we truly understand it, rather than the 3-4 minutes nearly any other show will give a topic (or 3-4 minutes of analysis followed by 20-30 minutes of opinions about it from people with an agenda). Oliver has an agenda too, sure, but he's putting in the legwork that others won't and highlighting topics that truly matter.

I also enjoy 538, they do some great analysis of polling and I enjoy the chats they do.

I'll take a look at those other sites, too.

Digi
Originally posted by BackFire
I also enjoy 538, they do some great analysis of polling and I enjoy the chats they do.

I'll take a look at those other sites, too.

Before it folded, Grantland was another ESPN-owned site that had some great long-form stuff. They didn't do politics, but were my go-to sports and pop culture site. 538, great as is it with their empirical approach to topics, never quite replaced the quality of writing Grantland had.

I don't remember a favorite article, but here are some others' picks for Grantland's best:
https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-grantland-articles-we-loved-most/
http://www.slate.com/articles/sports/sports_nut/2015/10/ these_were_grantland_s_best_stories_espn_please_do
n_t_take_them_down.html

Oh wait, no, I do remember my favorite article: http://grantland.com/features/diplomacy-the-board-game-of-the-alpha-nerds/

meep-meep
Originally posted by Digi
Before it folded, Grantland was another ESPN-owned site that had some great long-form stuff. They didn't do politics, but were my go-to sports and pop culture site. 538, great as is it with their empirical approach to topics, never quite replaced the quality of writing Grantland had.

I don't remember a favorite article, but here are some others' picks for Grantland's best:
https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-grantland-articles-we-loved-most/
http://www.slate.com/articles/sports/sports_nut/2015/10/ these_were_grantland_s_best_stories_espn_please_do
n_t_take_them_down.html

Oh wait, no, I do remember my favorite article: http://grantland.com/features/diplomacy-the-board-game-of-the-alpha-nerds/

I just finished reading the whole article about Diplomacy. That was fascinating. It was a very, very good read.

cdtm
Dipcon. laughing

Wonder if they got the double meaning when they made that.

Digi
Originally posted by meep-meep
I just finished reading the whole article about Diplomacy. That was fascinating. It was a very, very good read.

I'm an avid board gamer, but have never been into Diplomacy. But damned if I wasn't on the edge of my seat - laughing, feeling nervous, etc. - right along with the author.

Glad you enjoyed it, though! And I agree, it's a superb bit of writing.

Originally posted by cdtm
Dipcon. laughing

Wonder if they got the double meaning when they made that.

Lol, no idea.

meep-meep
Originally posted by Digi
I'm an avid board gamer, but have never been into Diplomacy. But damned if I wasn't on the edge of my seat - laughing, feeling nervous, etc. - right along with the author.

Glad you enjoyed it, though! And I agree, it's a superb bit of writing.



Lol, no idea.

I've played axis and allies many times, and have played Diplomacy once. All when I was in high school on weekends when whomever had time.

It felt like I was right there with the author. Great article Digi.

Text-only Version: Click HERE to see this thread with all of the graphics, features, and links.