Doug March sent me this Nieman Lab piece by Ben Collins that asks some good questions, but doesn’t have many answers. I keep thinking of our web of social connections that’s been tattering for a while; I think a lot of peoples’ just completely collapsed during COVID.
Without that web of strong and weak ties (strong = family, close friends; weak = coworkers, acquaintances, neighbors), we’re left to our own devices of what’s “real” and acceptable. If we fall into these bubbles (cauldrons?) of conspiracies and nonsense, there’s no one to pull us out. There’s no reference point back to the “real” world, and we just sink deeper.
And that’s the core of it, I think: loneliness. The world is a very lonely place for a lot of people, and the pandemic has turned that into a crisis. People are looking for a place to belong, and unfortunately, the internet has a WHOLE lot of corners to find it in, and most of them aren’t healthy.
There are a lot of bad actors willing to profit from that loneliness and the anger that comes along with it. It’s time to call them out, and start reclaiming our friends and family from these cauldrons.
I just wish some of those experts mentioned in the piece would tell us how to do it… because I have no idea.