We’re all familiar with the phrase “you are what you eat”, an easy way to remember the consequences food has on health. Information is brain food, yet the consequences of our media diet are often ignored. Consuming the wrong memes can be worse for our health than junk food. Al Qaeda identified potential jihadists and exposed them "to a single meme set many times a day for months, or years”. This extreme filter bubble produces a "dependent mental state" that "causes their brains to release dopamine and endorphins giving them a high" — essentially a drug. They become Memeoids: taken over by a meme to the extent that their own survival becomes inconsequential. Memetics overpowers Genetics, they’re willing to throw away their own reproductive potential in service to the meme that consumes them, like kamikaze pilots, suicide bombers and cult members.
You’re not smart enough to avoid it. Terrorist radicals are 6x more likely to have a bachelor’s degree than the average person. Intelligent people are easily fooled by fake claims thanks in part to ‘cognitive miserliness’, the tendency to try to solve problems in simple ways. They are more likely to believe disinformation, and less likely to update their beliefs in the face of new evidence. Their greater brainpower makes them more able to rationalize bad behavior and convince those around them. On social media studies show that users defer to high status individuals who post ambiguously, as they assume the content of the posts must be good even if they don’t fully agree or can’t understand it. While the prevailing wisdom is that low IQ is associated with criminality – lack of self-control, no foresight, less opportunity – but that’s because most studies can’t control for the likelihood of getting caught: a fate that high IQ individuals are more adept at avoiding. The Dunning-Kruger effect dictates that the more skilled you are, the more likely you are to feel like a fraud. Perhaps at high levels this translates into a belief that you need to actually commit fraud to stay in the game?
Remember the old adage "you are the sum of your five best friends"? It matters a great deal whether your five friends are law abiding citizens or morally plastic sociopaths. What you consider to be ‘normal’ and allowable is to a large extent a function of what you see around you. The availability bias makes us think that our experiences are similar to average, and if everyone else is doing it, then why shouldn’t you? Developmental outcomes in children are impacted by whether they have close friendships, and who those friendships are with determine whether the child joins a gang. Studies show that living in close proximity to friends who commit crimes increases your own risk of offending, although daily interaction with these friends does decrease the risk of victimization. IN the information age we’re no longer constrained by geography when choosing a friend group, so we can be proactive in selecting more ambitious and honourable friends online. Alternatively we can at least absorb ideas on better living from our heroes, by following them on social media, listening to them on podcasts, or reading their books. Be careful choosing who you follow, and be judicious in unfollowing anyone who starts polluting your feed with bad ideas.
The best advice is to make friends who question you: being asked how a conspiracy works rather than why you believe it, forces you to confront the fact that you don’t understand the details, which ultimately causes you to question your beliefs. When you do discuss politically sensitive issues, avoid emotion. Moderating your language makes the opposite side more likely to engage, increasing the reach outside your own echo chamber—keeping you anchored in reality. Being well read can also help: studies show that it’s hard to reverse disinformation once believed, but you can inoculate yourself against fake news by encountering it in small doses ahead of time. Consuming a wide variety of news sources can help give you a wider perspective with which to judge new information against, having much the same effect as a strengthened immune system would have against a virus.
Berlin: Navine G. Khan-Dossos: Nome
Blue checks aside, you can't buy status in online communities, but once you earn it, shitposting helps grow it:
Dunbar's number: Why we can only maintain 150 relationships
Engineers of Jihad: The Curious Connection between Violent Extremism and Education
How friends’ involvement in crime affects the risk of offending and victimization
Memetics, Free Dictionary
The Electronic Revolution
The meaning and origin of the expression: You are what you eat
The neuroscience of terrorism: How we convinced a group of radicals to let us scan their brains
The power of friendship: The developmental significance of friendships from a neuroscience perspective
When people we admire spout pseudo-profound bullshit (yes, its a technical term), we actually achieve enlightenment.
Why Do Youth Join Gangs?
Why Imposter Syndrome Affects the Most Successful People