Social media is primarily about confirmation bias. If you click on this article, chances are you already agree with its premise. You’ve found fault in both sides of the climate change debate — whether we’re going to “science” our way out of anthropogenic warming and ecological overshoot, or we’re irrevocably fucked — and you’re looking for an article elucidating why exactly you’re right.
We also like being challenged, sometimes — we get as much of a dopamine hit from confronting the opposition as we do cosying up to the echo chamber.
But whether it’s encountering the opposition or rallying with our own team, we like to be confirmed. And it’s true from social networks to podcasts and videos, to the national political news media.
This isn’t about both sides, though, or false equivalency. If anything is false, it’s this binary that we’re either hopeful about our green future with all the trimmings or that we’re plodding hopelessly toward an extinction we can do nothing about.
We don’t have to abide by either end of that spectrum.
And we shouldn’t.
Humanity tends to cleave in two. Imagine a huge slab of earth, like a giant cookie floating in the air. A fault line forms along the centre of that earth slab; just a hairline fracture. Despite its thinness, it forces people to one side or another. Gradually, then, they move away from that centre line, adding more weight to the sides. The fracture becomes a fissure, then a chasm. The more people pile onto the outer fringes, the more yawning the gap.
Social media —really, the infotainment complex writ large — has been an accelerant to this process. We’re incentivized (economically, psychologically), to play our cultural and political games at the fringes. And so it is with climate change, just another “issue” to get fed into the bifurcation machine, to get turned into a false binary.
You’re either a “techno-optimist” or a “doomer.” That is, either you believe we got ourselves here with technology and can get ourselves out of it (we’ll switch to renewables, and deploy…