Combating Digital Dehumanization

Bias or prejudice are often obvious but also can appear in more sublime forms, whereby trying to enforce a global standard is likewise dangerous.

By Kris® K - 10. 

Recently, I had a short chat with one of my friends whom I had not met in person for years. After exchanging quick pleasantries, she came to learn more about my professional background in cybersecurity industry and our conversation slipped into events that dominated internet from deep fakes to fake news. The highlight of the conversation was however centered around ‘Online Civility’. 

"Folks should be more civil when engaging in online interactions" she said. As individuals what we ought to do, to improve the online civility? - delete comments sections across social media platforms? moderate forums? Will these be effective?... these were all the topics and questions that ensued. 

Honestly, I found few of the suggestions we had discussed to reduce toxicity of conversations and arguments online, encroaching the individual liberties and challenging the culture of freedom. I believe shutting down one’s opinions, views and arguments will only slow and alter the learning process. I am positive that constant communication and interactions are the very pillar stones, which lay the foundations for learning when pursued with the true spirit.

So, what is the alternative? Are there solutions or a solution that will help us stay more civil and help others be recognized and feel safe online? 

Charity begins at home and so does civility. Self-monitoring, self-regulation etc. are few of the terms that popped up in my mind. But in order to reach this state of so called ‘self-policing’ I feel understanding the two important aspects of Human Biases and Arguments is necessary. 

The Human Bias – 

Our continued interactions with individuals on social media platforms from varying backgrounds have helped us improve ourselves and have contributed towards our learning process. However, it’s not rare that we come across arguments that are both critiquing & constructive in nature as well as ones that are belittling & negative.

It does not take us too much effort to understand that, our everyday behavior is often influenced by a myriad of biases which we are subjected to, as human beings. A reasonable understanding of these cognitive biases (Herd mentality, Group think, Bandwagon Fallacy to name a few) will also help us not only to gain insights about varying opinions and arguments but also will help us understand if they are authentic or fake, to a considerable extent.

We need to clearly ensure that an understanding of these cognitive biases helps us only in deciphering the context better when engaging in an online conversation and should only be used as a tool for self-moderation. 

If you are new to understanding the human biases this, infographic would be a great start and if intrigued feel free to research online, as there are ample online infographics, books and other resources which extend information and techniques to help manage these biases. 

I am not suggesting we take a deep dive into advanced psychology concepts to get a general understanding, but an overall knowledge and awareness of these biases will go a long way. I feel a glimpse into this world of human biases will help us understand ourselves, as well as perspectives of folks around us, which in turn will enable us to respect their views and opinion with improved civility. 

An attempt to dissect the types of Arguments online – 

There is a plethora of resources available on the internet to assess and review the arguments that we all read and indulge into. However, I wanted to focus on the intent and timing aspect of the arguments we make. This is just a limited view or a precursor to how we can categorize arguments that we come across online so that we get better at managing them,

Impulsive and quick search/internet informed comments and arguments: 

Bickering over topics that are very trivial is not a new trend that we would witness, if we scroll through most of the comments sections. Often one can find participants not giving enough thought into the subject matter that is intended to be discussed on a post, but they rather tend to get carried away by viewpoints and comments of other participants.

I believe re-aligning one’s thoughts to the topic of the original post and trying to understand or empathize the intention of the author would help us position or express our views better. The gist is to ensure that we do not get triggered by our emotions and act impulsively.

Another example is when posts of a researcher or subject matter expert who might have spent years or months on a subject is commented upon, with information or results from a 5-15 minutes quick search on internet. If one finds themselves guilty of doing this at some point of time, it is advisable that they save some time and just move on. Maybe it's hard to practice it initially but be honest with yourself for 5 seconds and drop the topic OR plan to invest time & thoroughly research on the topic.

In this way you can respect the time and effort of the author who has spent considerable part of his/her time mastering and learning the topic in hand. 

Constructive and well-informed comments and arguments:           

The comments and arguments which are well-informed after years of research and mastery, expressed with a constructive intent sometimes miss the target and might trigger toxic discussions. One may end up reviewing or find an innocent or less informed comment to be insulting their intelligence levels. This is because they anticipate the person making the comment also to be well informed as themselves or thinks that commentator does not have the right intent in place.

A peek into Dunning-Kruger effect illustrated below can help us improve our understanding of both the types of arguments discussed above:

Basically, smart people tend to underestimate themselves; ignorant people think they’re brilliant. The highly skilled assume that the things they find easy are also easy for others and unskilled are so incompetent that they can’t recognize their own stupidity. 

In Conclusion

In order to make our own contributions towards upholding online civility and thus combat digital dehumanization it is necessary that we have an altruistic intent in place and direct our own efforts from within towards the cause of helping others better themselves. Citing two of my favorite quotes on these lines -

“Civility does not…mean the mere outward gentleness of speech cultivated for the occasion, but an inborn gentleness and desire to do the opponent good.” M K Gandhi

“Perhaps in return for arrogance and spoilation, lets learn to instill the gentleness of a mind, the quite content of the uninquisitive soul, and a pacifying love for all the living things.” Will Durant

What I have touched upon is only a very small tip of a broader topic. However, I am positive that this will help trigger your thoughts in a direction to improve and contribute towards online civility. Please feel free to comment/advise and extend your valuable inputs if any :) Appreciate you taking time to read this and do not hesitate to share this post if you find it insight worthy to your fellow networkers.

To part with a humorous take on 'Art of altruism at work place', watch a short video below. Thank you for your time.

Author:

Kris® K  ✔

Kris® K - MBA, MS - Cybersecurity, IT Service Management and Project Management Professional

COMMENT:

Isabel Maria da Palma

Isabel Maria da Palma - Transnational organized crime whistleblower. A case of data theft from Expekt into Microgaming's #Betway #PanamaPapers

The web is the richest resource ever, a never ending source of knowledge. The more anonymous one is to other users, the more honest one tends to be (why? because people have nothing to lose if they're honest). Public commentary isn't more aggressive than it used to be back in the 90's, on the contrary, it's far more pleasant. What changed is the amount of websites where one can comment and the variety of topics as well as the type of demographics (before, mom and pop weren't on FB because there were no such thing). People want to beautify public commentary as they want to change their partner when they're in a relationship ... and that's a problem. The web has exploiters of all sorts, as the physical world has, and it's here the focus should be on ... not on words people type to express themselves. If people see the internet for what it is, instead of a room in need of beautification or a partner they want to change, then everything will be alright. Maybe the problem isn't on what other people type on the web, maybe the problem it's in themselves. Your article is pure food for thought. Really enjoyed it. Thank you.

 

[Editor's Comment: Caveat - mostly just people from the Anglo-American world might fully understand the sublimal aggression displayed here - "cultured" exaggerated reciprocity is simply evil. 

However, the phenomenon kown as Potlatch emerged already with Native Americans inhabiting the coastal regions of Southern Alaska, British Columbia, and Washington (especially the Kwakiutl, the aboriginal inhabitants of Vancouver Island) - and maybe mainstream USA got it from them. Ambitious, status-hungry men were found competing with each other for wider approval of men and women by giving huge feasts. A feast was a success only if the guests could eat until they were stupefied, stagger off into the bush, vomit, and when coming back found more to eat.

The status seekers thereby practiced what seems like a maniacal form of conspicupous consumption and conspicuous waste. The object of a Potlatch was to give away or to destroy more wealth than one's rival - to shame the rivals and gain everlasting admiration from his followers by destroying food, clothing, and money -  sometimes even by burning down the own house. 

This behaviour, also known as "Big Man Syndrome" is widespread all over the world and a sign for a sick society - often also manifested in "largest private island", "biggest yacht", "tallest tower", "largest private plane", "biggest ranch" etc. etc.

In the contrary, the bushmen (San) of Southern Africa, our oldest still living ancestors, live and maintain the wisdom of true humanity. They explain: "When a young man succeeds in hunting game and brings home much meat he comes to think of himself as a chief or a Big Man, and he thinks of the rest of us as his servants or inferiors. We cannot accept this. We therefore refuse one who boasts, for someday his pride will make him kill somebody. So we always speak of his meat as worthless. This way we cool his heart and make him gentle."]

High time to return to the old ways of true humanity.

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