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Submission + - SPAM: How Silicon Valley Divided Society And Made Everyone Raging Mad

schwit1 writes: Of all the fantasies about how the internet would improve our lives, the notion that connectivity automatically brings people together is the most alluring. Mark Zuckerberg’s oft-repeated promise to create a “global community” on Facebook is merely the most recent example. For decades, the utopians of Silicon Valley have firmly believed that digital connectivity will bridge all misunderstanding and difference.

It increasingly feels like it is doing the precise opposite, fueling a tribal form of identity politics based on narrow markers of gender, race, religion or so on. This isn’t the fault of the net of course—identity politics far predates digital communication—but it has introduced a new urgency and force. Just as Netflix and YouTube replaced mass audience television with ever more personalized choice, so total connection offers up an infinite array of possible identities. Online, anyone can find any type of community they wish (or invent their own)—think alt-right, pro-ana, TERF, antifa—and with it thousands of likeminded people with whom they can mobilize. Anyone who is pissed off can now automatically find other people that are similarly pissed off. A network can bring people together, but it also produces homophily—birds of a feather flocking together.

Homophily is often the basis for a community, but what transforms it into a forceful identity based movement is some sense of shared struggle or common enemy. This is where the tsunami of information online has inadvertently turbo-charged the rise of identity politics. Because the internet is a bottomless well of available grievance.

If you are a transgender person, you can cite and share the awful crime statistics.

If you are a person of color in the U.K., a recent government survey revealed still enormous differences in life chances.

If you are white working class, data finds that your group has the lowest likelihood of getting to university and the lowest sense of personal agency.

If you are a Muslim, you’re more likely to wind up in prison.

If you are middle class, academic studies prove the last 30 years of globalization has led to an unprecedented decline in your wages.

If you are a woman, you’re still earning less than men for the equivalent work.

And on and on and on. Spend a little time on social media: you won’t go five minutes without seeing a report about how badly group x or group y is being treated.

... every individual now has readily available a truckload of reasons to feel legitimately aggrieved, outraged, oppressed, or threatened—even if their own life is going just fine.

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How Silicon Valley Divided Society And Made Everyone Raging Mad

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