Confirmation looping on social media shows the predictability of fearful behavior
Over recent weeks I have found myself very hesitant to post anything on social media, and I especially recognize my refrain from posting controversial material. While part of this is due to having limited energy and time, and not wanting to exhaust that on the world wide web. However, another crucial factor I feel is that social media is decreasing my ability to be creative. It is incidentally making me boring and predictable by subconsciously posting topics for the yay-sayers.
I am also seeing this play out in our daily lives, as our social media posts garner very predictable responses from both supporters and antagonists. These responses can be calculated and almost counted on as individuals gets ready to click publish to release their post. Depending on the mood of engagement that day, people may not even hit send and delete the entire entry because they do not feel like babysitting that post all day. The more divisive the topic, the higher the level of comment engagement and justification for their particular point of view. It is almost as if some people have a long tangential copy-paste reply ready to discredit how anyone feels about any particular topic.
I see not just the response of support or denial of, I see myself analyzing the fragmented and often compartmentalized lack of feeling behind the justification given by the not-so-expert Facebook pundit. While some would say that predictability is good, to me it signifies a lack of critical and creative thought. It reflects the reality of the fear that our own feedback loops provide.
Now am not suggesting that society as a whole suffers from PTSD feedback loops. I do think it is much more pervasive within our culture and might account for these very predictable responses from otherwise well intentioned and educated people.
One of the most common type of feedback loops people display is the “Dangerous World Feedback Loop.”
With this specific feedback loop the person experiences pain or suffering that overwhelms their ability to manage that stress. If this person then stays in an environment that reminds them of or repeats that trauma over and over again, this vicious cycle becomes an imprint on the lens in which they view their world.
Their perceptions of danger merged with constant triggering combine to justify that the world is a very dangerous place, only to be feared and cautioned against. Those who exist in the framework of the dangerous world feedback loop will attempt to caution you and everyone else on social media about the dangers. Misery loves company but fear is the conspirator to misery.
We all know someone who is stuck in this dangerous world feedback loop and, unintentionally or even intentionally, substantiates this reality by looking for confirmation and then expresses opinions of threats, crisis, and peril under every rock.
Over the past 6 years, I have had the fortunate ability to speak candidly to many victims of horrific violence and have documented their journeys of survivorship in the online magazine, “The Gift of Our Wounds.” One of those stories chronicled recently was the memoir of Madeline Black, Author of “Unbroken,” who detailed her road back from horrific violence as she attempted to piece together a fragmented reality. Madeline’s journey was a true process of courage and forgiveness as she challenged her own internal spirituality as much as she challenged the external world.
Her story got me thinking about how much we all struggle to piece together our own lives because we do not actively challenge the hardships that we exist in. The splinters are because we lack entirety. This absence of wholeness creates the inability to have critical thought and dialogue, which are needed to push forward solutions in our everyday lives and our communal struggles. Constantly confirming a reality that makes the most sense to us is not the same as evidence-based facts. Simply expressing strongly held opinions just confirms the our psychological biases.
There are plenty of controversial subject matters: Brett Kavanaugh, Mollie Tibbets death, Colin Kaepernick endorsement by Nike, the Milwaukee Streetcar, and anything associated with Trump. What are personal opinions? What are the opinions of loved ones? What will be the reaction of followers on social media? Most people can predict who will comment, like, love, angry emoji, sadness, or even ignore getting into the conversation.
Current data in 2018 on cyber research shows that while we have the ability to be more creatively expressive than ever before, our demographic user data shows that we are actually becoming much more predictable. Predictable enough to know that plugging into the angst, fear, and hatred that exists in the psyche of America can help even extremely unqualified political candidates win the Presidential election.
Other feedback loops that we commonly have are: the self-isolation feedback loop, the panic (hyperarousal) feedback loop, the spaced-out loop, the avoidance loop, lack of trust loop, the trauma-seeking loop, the survival focused loop, and the learned helplessness feedback loop. All of these loops are confirmation loops that take new input, yet validate an individual’s already held misconceptions. Combine this with the echo-system of social media and we have a shared confirmation loop.
The concern is that these loops combined with a fragmented and pieces of reality that keep us from actively challenging the patternistic thoughts and perceptions that all of us have about one another.
It keeps us existing in silos and expands division, not only from each other but from a wholeness within ourselves. A separation of mind, body, and emotions. It makes people unable to access the creative art of healing and detrimentally existing in a trauma-based reality. To heal is to evolve and compassionately challenge. It is first and foremost our own cognitive functioning, and then challenges what we ourselves are putting into the stratosphere.
We have to ask ourselves – genuinely – if we would rather be right or effective. The obvious answer is that we would like to think we could be both. The problem with that is almost everyone thinks that they are right, and that may not always be true. And, it is often hard to prove.
Instead, we should stay focused on being effective with the limited energy and time we have.