The great blessing of the Internet is that it gives everyone a voice.
Ordinary people had little opportunity to express their thoughts in public domains before the Internet. Newspapers had “letters to the editor” and talk shows had “call-ins,” but these were narrow, carefully managed gateways to public attention.
The curse of the Internet is that, because everyone has a voice, no one listens.
To be heard in the cacophonous sea of Internet voices, individuals must amplify their own. They’re apt to express exaggerated opinions, which, in their hearts, they don’t fully believe. Once expressed, they’re stuck having to defend amplified opinions ever more loudly in future posts. The louder the voice grows, the more biased and insensitive to ambiguity it becomes.
Imagine that someone is whispering in a movie theater, and you whisper to them, “Please be quiet.” You’re communicating your goal to maintain a quiet environment, so you and everyone else can enjoy the movie.
Now imagine that everyone in the theater is whispering. You’ll need to talk louder to be heard – yes, you’ll loudly ask for quiet. Your primary goal is no longer to enjoy the movie; it’s to control everyone else in the theater. That takes a lot of adrenaline, which will make it impossible to concentrate on the movie, even if everyone submits to your will and goes quiet. Of course, people are unlikely to submit to your will. Many will object to the loudness of your voice while everyone else is whispering.
Before the Internet, people expressed themselves to other people. Communications were tempered by social cues, facial expressions, eye-contact, body language, tone of voice. Conversing in person, we get a feel for one another, which modifies our thoughts.
Communicating in cyberspace, the brain guesses social cues. The guesses are always based on