Curated Resource ( ? )

Moral outrage in the digital age (pdf)

my notes ( ? )

After pointing out the evolutionary reasons for moral outrage's existence - to shame & punish wrongdoers - this 2017 Nature paper describes a psychological framework (triggering stimuli -> Responses -> Outcomes) for understanding how online social networks "change the expression of moral outrage and its social consequences?"

It reveals how "digital media may exacerbate the expression of moral outrage by inflating its triggering stimuli, reducing some of its costs and amplifying many of its personal benefits".

Online is an immensely more triggering environment. While gossip "spread news about who could be trusted within local social networks ... to reinforce trust... platforms have profoundly changed the incentives of information sharing" because their advertising-based business model "promote content most likely to be shared, regardless of whether it benefits those who share it — or is even true".

Result: "‘supernormal’ stimuli that trigger much stronger outrage responses than do transgressions we typically encounter in everyday life". Moreover, evidence that encountering immorality online provokes a stronger response than in more traditional environments - venting anger begets more anger - so platforms increase trigger prevalence and our response.

It's also far easier to express outrage and punish online than IRL - and platforms design to streamline the ‘stimulus–response–outcome’ loop. Result: some people frequently express outrage they don't actually feel, at least to the same level.

Echo chambers also reduce the risk/cost of expressing outrage:

  • most in the chamber agree
  • you can hide in the mob
  • your target is distant, a 2D icon you'll probably never meet

And then there's the reputational rewards: "people are more likely to punish when others are watching".

Echo chambers also reduce the benefits of shaming - the targets won't hear it - and increase polarisation by increasing dehumanisation of targets.

"If moral outrage is a fire, is the internet like gasoline? "

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The above notes were curated from the full post

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See also: Social Media Strategy , Content Creation & Marketing , Surveillance Capitalism, Social media and Polarisation (Overview) , Psychology , Social Web

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