The Social Polariser


Here’s the thing about the modern age: while I am not at all hesitate to say that in general things are better than they have ever been before, there are plenty of consequences associated with the ever expanding reach of information. In the old days, social norms are limited by geography and preceding culture, only expanded or absorbed by colonisation. These days, with the advent of the internet, ideas travel faster than you can read them. Information hence sweeps through the world like never before, impossible to contain even. Thus, neo-subcultures are developed, in the forms of groups sharing the same characteristic(s), interests or beliefs, usually settled on the internet. The topic today is the very result of these changes: the ‘hivemind’ mentality.

Once again, I have to clarify that such a thing has existed in the past ever since the dawn of humanity, with tribal leaders and family heads, with kings and god-sayers. Those people all once had a following, a cult, of like-minded individual uniting under a certain banner. Those who got lucky made religions or belief systems out of them, and are then spread through the outreach of civilisation. The only difference is that nowadays, the physical limitations have been severely compressed into nothing less of bad connections. The problem is, the implications of these new boundaries have gone far understudied. The reason would be because it would conflict with all sources of interests wishing to exploit it, and that people just do not like to think about it that much. The same as everything else, actually.

The rise of the internet opened the floodgate of happenings, shaping and reshaping social norms just as far as its grasp. Social platforms, like Twitter and Facebook, as well as open forums, like reddit and reddit (it simply is that big) has given a new identity to the old gatherings. There is a certain line of thinking that people adhere to, not because they think it’s right, but simply because those similar to them do the same. People may say it’s the result of open information, I say it’s nothing more than the blind leading the blind. Unlike old cults, there isn’t even necessarily someone at the top. A lot of the time it just a lot of people wanting to decide how everyone like them should behave, a sad remnants of the old social movements.

These mentalities reach far wider than anyone is willing to admit, especially in developed countries, noticeable Western ones with a lesser sense of tradition. The major difference associated with modern technologies is that unlike before, where only certain aspects of one’s life is dictated through interactions, nowadays most everything has a certain trend associated to it. What this leads to is the expulsion of original thoughts and free-thinking. Instead, it is based entirely on recommending done-old visions that then becomes the identity of that certain group. No conflicting opinions shall be heard because they are always wrong, and that’s where all discussions deteriorate. One of the more notable problems is the rating systems. On a video site like YouTube, it makes sense. However, on reddit, the only thing it does is to promote popular opinions, and while it is not what the forum intended to happen (based on their rules), that’s just how things are.

Ratings kill discussions, plain and simple. Even in the same subset there are polarising opinions from people, leading to camps heavily backing those that are similar to them, and never get into a point of actual debate. It promotes complacency and a follow-the-leader attitude. It saps the individuality out of individuals, while not giving back the balancing factor. This is the same with aspects like art as well. Trash music regurgitated through radio stations because they are specifically made to be appealing to a mass audience. Movies touted and hyped by social focus without any actual quality assurance. Hell, with everything I have said about critics, they still do their job. It’s simply that they overreach constantly that makes me lose all faith in them. A good dose of perspective is desperately needed, but probably will never come.

Then again, I’m not doing anything about it.


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