The Implicit Psychological Entropy of Social Media

Context: Britons less trusting of social media than other major nations

For all of this (perhaps entirely justifiable) distrust referenced in the article above, these shared communications platforms remain spectacularly popular. Is a core psychological requirement of continuous socialisation and cognitive novelty the (social media) trump card over distrust and ethical abhorrence? Even where the participant observation in social media systems generates frustration and discomfort it still provides that reflexive distance and difference by which an aspirational individuation and narcissistic self-validation occurs. Disagreement and distrust provide apertures of opportunity for psychological, subjective self-definition in ways at least as (if not more) certain as do agreement and trust; in fact – most ideological assertions (online or elsewhere) possess a non-trivial investment in antagonistic self-definition, of defining one’s self in opposition to an Other.

It is quite probable that one aspect in the statistical success and far-reaching consequences of the ongoing efflorescence of irrationality, falsehood and inflammatory rhetoric so virulent online is that ideological or ethical negation provides more ways in which a message might self-replicate whereas unproblematic (and verifiable) truths or unsurprising (ideologically neutral) assertions provide fewer methods for memetic self-propagation, message self-replication. That information which is inflammatory possesses more potential and (virtual) kinetic vectors of effect. In sum – the methods and channels of self-definition as against, or in dissonant opposition to, an assertion or notional fact exceed in possibility-space those of agreement and positive resonance. Negativity (and conflict) proliferates because there are more channels of possibility and probable instantiation than there are for peace or agreement; social media provides an avenue of expression for this. It is not in any sense a new psychological symmetry but it most certainly is a cognitively-extended technologically-mediated expression of this pre-existing phenomenon.

There are far more possible (i.e. probable) disordered states than ordered ones – individual and distributed intelligence merely capitalises on this with the characteristic heuristic efficiency of existential opportunism and human intelligence. Ideological turbulence, media distrust, fake news and the hyper-inflating bias towards successfully self-propagating inflammatory rhetoric in (or as) social media is one instance of a broader principle through which life and intelligence negotiate and harness or exploit entropy in information and energy processing systems.

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