Everybody knows the problem with the feedback system of Twitter/X—likes and responses and reposts (previously retweets) encourage mobbing, clickbait, and other bad behaviour. Jonathan Haidt talks about this in a recent Atlantic article. One of the engineers at Twitter who had worked on the “Retweet” button later revealed that he regretted his contribution because it had made Twitter a nastier place. As he watched Twitter mobs forming through the use of the new tool,
Brian Earp (mentioned here by Jesse Signal: https://jessesingal.substack.com/p/toward-a-grand-unified-theory-of) mentions how social media is missing the "passive negative feedback" of real life: "Imagine I’m sitting in a room of 30 people and I make a dramatic statement about how outraged I am about X. And, say, five people cheer in response (analogous to liking or retweeting). But suppose the other 25 people kind of stare at the table, or give me a weird look or roll their eyes, or in some other way (relatively) passively express that they think I’m kind of overdoing it".
Very intelligent post, Paul. This is a phenomenon I've long been preoccupied with. The way I think about it: in real life, it is much more difficult to get people to directly verbalize negative opinion, even constructive negative opinion, to your face except they're your sworn enemy. If you're generally a decent, kind, good-natured person, it even becomes less likely you'd ever get to hear about your serious shortcomings from your social circle. One then sort of live in a bubble of goodwill. One way I have devised to burst this bubble is by personally handpicking some intelligent friends, with critical minds (that are usually never exercised in my direction) and specifically instruct them to give me a critical feedback (not interested in the positives because I know I'd get plenty of that by default, true or exaggerated) on a particular performance I'm about to give. Each time, I'm surprised at the depth and sharpness of their critique which would never have been revealed were they not expressly commissioned to offer it. And this is totally understandable.