Jan 032016 2 Responses

The Facebook Cycle of Hate

It’s a hate cycle. Any given day, on social media, there is a distinct cycle of hate which is repeated. Someone logs in with a preconceived opinion of someone or something. They read a story posted by a friend who has similar thoughts and from a website which has similar leanings. The story confirms their bias and makes their feelings even stronger. With a stronger contempt, they read the next story with an even greater bias. That story further confirms their thoughts which deepens their beliefs. It’s a cycle which never stops.

Some see it. They don’t like it, try to stay free from it, but occasionally fall for the very process they despise. (See: The Most Common Mistake I Make)

Others are completely unaware. They believe their opponents are even worse than they know. Everything they read on social media confirms their worst fears. The only guarantee is that their hatred will be more tomorrow than it is today and they will feel very justified in their contempt.

Have you been sucked in by the cycle? Does social media cause your contempt to grow and your compassion to fade? Are you stripping your opponents of their humanity and treating them in a way that is not fair to anyone?

Consider one of my favorite quotes from C.S. Lewis:

“Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally we shall insist on seeing everything — God and our friends and ourselves included — as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed forever in a universe of pure hatred.”

I experience it on a weekly basis, but it is probably happening at every moment of the day on Facebook. Someone posts something from a biased, unreliable website (there are plenty of these for every political persuasion). The headline alone should clue the reader into the lie. But it doesn’t, and the story is shared by a host of people.

Finally someone does the strenuous work of researching the story. By strenuous, I mean they do a simple Google search or type the story into snopes.com. At minimum the story is misleading; at maximum it’s an all out lie.

Confronted with the truth, Lewis says the person posting the article should respond by saying, “Oh, thank goodness. They aren’t as bad as I thought they were.”

Instead they respond, “Well, I’m sure they’ve done something far worse.”

The truth doesn’t lessen their hate. They choose to believe the exact opposite of the truth and their hate continues to grow. (See: Sometimes You Need a Facebook Timeout)

This is the sad state of most social media interactions. It’s destructive to progress, depressing to our souls, and devastating to relationships. But it’s an unending cycle. And it must stop.

We need to have healthy debate. We must engage difficult issues and point out the incorrect thinking of our opponents. But we must stop lying, exaggerating, and deceiving others. We must be better than furthering the corrupt agendas of websites focused on manipulating hate in order to make a profit.

We must be fair to one another and ourselves. It’s not fair to believe and propagate lies about others. It’s not fair to strip our opponents of their humanity. It’s not fair to assume anyone who disagrees with us is evil.

Yet without an intentional and concerted effort, we will do exactly that. Without intervention, social media will deepen our bias and prevent us from discovering the truth.

How can we be different?

  1. Recognize the process. No one is immune from the common process of reading a story through a biased lens. If we don’t recognize our tendency, we won’t be able to stop it.
  2. Remember you are being manipulated. Websites have angles. Many are trying to make money. Read every story as though it is biased. (See: Find the Lie, Name the Truth)
  3. Verify before you vilify. While it’s easy to be deceived in this society, it is often easy to research the truth. Before sharing a story, check to see if it is true. The more a story verifies your thoughts, the faster you should act to make sure it is true.
  4. Value humanity. Even when people make bad choices or believe something radically different than you, refuse to define all of who they are by one set of choices or decisions.
  5. Celebrate your opponents. When your assumption is proven wrong, feel good that your opponents aren’t as bad as you thought. Seek the good in others and be quick to call attention to it. If you can’t cheer the good, you have no right to boo the bad.
  6. Be quick with humility. Recognize how easy it is to be wrong or deceived. Never hesitate to admit you were incorrect. Admit it and move on.

Facebook can be great. You can connect with others, catch up on the news, and experience a much larger world. However, it is fraught with peril. If we don’t pay attention, we will get sucked into the Facebook cycle of hate.

2 Responses to The Facebook Cycle of Hate
  1. […] Kaepernick was wrong, but that doesn’t mean he is evil. It means he has opinions that I don... kevinathompson.com/confusing-wrong-opinions-for-evil-hearts
  2. […] I have been as big of an offender as anyone. (See: The Facebook Cycle of Hate) […]... https://www.kevinathompson.com/debate-most-in-my-life

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