Negativity Bias

Another interesting fact about social media is that approximately 20 percent of people’s interactions on social media are with bots. Hence, when one combines the pervasiveness of bots on social media along with the fact that almost half of its users are non-functional and that only 10 percent of tweeters produce 80 percent of the tweets in addition to the fact that lies spread six times faster than truth on social media, it follows that one is largely in the midst of a “smoke and mirrors” situation and amidst a rift between truth and falsehood as long as one is confounded by social media. It follows that social media is doing more damage than good to the world, in addition to the fact that social media reflects falsehoods more than it reflects truths about the world. 

But as mentioned before, the mainstream media and social media use the same basic model for garnering traffic and usage, namely, the model of addiction, manipulation, and hypnosis. Americans spend an average of about three hours a day watching television. But social media has now cut into the time that Americans spend watching cable news, given that about two-thirds of Americans now get their news from social media rather than from the mainstream media. And in the age of internet and social media, consumers of news have the choice and the variety to deny and select programs and sources which either affirm or contradict their preferences and values, as someone has argued. Also, news has the tendency to elevate and give the spotlight to what is negative rather than positive, which means that shutting off the news not only negates its hypnotic effect, but that shutting off the news also negates the negative energy which emanates from both the mainstream media and social media. 

There is also empirical proof that the American mainstream media can “increase anxious and sad moods and increase worry in areas unrelated to the negative content” that is being consumed. It has also been written that the mainstream media exploits what is known as a “negativity bias” in the human mind. The “negativity bias” means that human beings tend to focus more on their problems rather than on what is going well in their lives. Hence, by exploiting the built-in “negativity bias” in the human mind, the news media is exacerbating both the psychological and social vulnerabilities and weaknesses in society. 

And even if curiosity as well as the fact that human beings are social creatures can explain in large part the hypnotic effect of television and social media, there is no fully “rational explanation” for the hypnotic effect of the mainstream media and social media. Why certain individuals become vulnerable to the hypnotic effect of mainstream and social media relates to a certain degree and extent to the “libidinal constitution” of the individual to borrow from Freud. Hypnosis also “contains an additional element of paralysis derived from the relation between someone with superior power and someone who is without power and helpless – which may afford a transition to the hypnosis of fright which occurs in animals.” 

Hence, there is “a puzzling way in which some people are subject to it, while others resist it completely” and it “points to some factor still unknown which is realized in it and which perhaps alone makes possible the purity of the attitudes of the libido which it exhibits.” Freud added that not only are there moral considerations which stop certain individuals from falling for hypnosis, but the fact that the hypnosis aims at opening us up to an “untrue reproduction” of our social reality by the hypnotizer is another major factor why certain individuals do not fall for the hypnotic effect of mainstream and social media.

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