The Fakes of Life and gullibility

Source: Silicon Valley Can’t Destroy Democracy Without Our Help – The New York Times

In this op for the New York Times, Emily Parker bluntly lays out my central concern about sales pitches.

I’m using “sales pitches” as a sort of generic term for anything and anyone who tries to sell us something, sell us a politician or a judge or an Rx medication for a physical problem which may not even exist and/or we probably don’t have.

Or, say, an adverse sales pitch–to use a colossally understated adjective–smearing a politician or a newspaper.

Fakery. Fakery and lies.

Here are a couple of excerpts which clearly make Ms. Parker’s point. Which is: we may be getting pounded by lies on social media but why are people believing them? And why are people so gullible they’ll vote based on these lies?

So don’t blame Facebook or Twitter for it. Because:

…Facebook and Twitter didn’t force users to share misinformation. Are Americans so easily duped? Or more alarming, did they simply believe what they wanted to believe?

…it’s not Twitter that is making Mr. Trump go viral; it’s Twitter’s users. They include all the citizens and journalists who follow, retweet and reply to Mr. Trump — even when we do so out of shock or outrage or because his statements have news value. If it weren’t for all of us, the president would be shouting into a void.

A couple of years ago, I was part of a team that tried that very experiment [trying to get social media users to eat their vegetables, rather than pigging out on candy]. We ran a Silicon Valley start-up called Parlio, which was later acquired by Quora. Parlio aimed to be a social media platform for civil debate. But what we discovered was that people loved the idea of reasoned debate, then decided that those debates took too much time. Thoughtful content was also less likely to go viral, and many users are addicted to the sugar rush of virality. So while people liked the idea of eating their vegetables, they still gravitated to Twitter’s candy aisle.

Social media platforms magnify our bad habits, even encourage them, but they don’t create them. Silicon Valley isn’t destroying democracy — only we can do that.

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