Trump & Biden, How Social Media Changed Politics, & Why Gen-Z Is In Trouble | Jonathan Haidt on Making Sense with Sam Harris

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Key Takeaways

  • Around the 1970s and ‘80s, America had shifted into two parties: conservatives and progressives
    • “Before that, things were all scrambled and rural people were often democrats…there was a lot of mixing and matching” – Jonathan Haidt
      • During this time, coalitions started to base themselves around values instead of legislation
        • “Now the other side is evil, they’re bad people”
  • Changes in how social media was used in 2009-2011 gave us an outrage machine in addition to the outrage from cable TV
    • “There was a lot of anger in the 2016 election, had there not been so much anger, had we not been so polarized, there’s no way Donald Trump would have gotten elected” Jonathan Haidt
  • Most Americans are reasonable people but a small minority are on the extreme left or right who use traditional media or social media as a megaphone to shout their point into the world
    • “Don’t give up on Americans, but it’s almost time to give up on the system or network that we have” Jonathan Haidt
  • It’s harder to find the truth in news because each party has its own agenda and tells the side of the story that benefits it
    • “There are very few trusted gate-keepers of information” Sam Harris
  • “I just feel that whoever Joe Biden is or has been, he’s better than Trump” – Sam Harris
  • “I’m certainly hoping that Trump is not reelected” – Jonathan Haidt
    • “Negative partisan, voting against what you don’t want is more powerful than voting for what you do want and that I think explains how Donald Trump was able to win in 2016”Jonathan Haidt
  • “There has to be some type of identity verification for major platforms” Jonathan Haidt
    • You wouldn’t have to post using your real name, but there needs to be a crackdown on intimidation. Ideally, there would be a 3rd party platform that verifies the identity of anyone who wants to join a social media platform and makes sure the person passes the age limit.

Intro

  • Jonathan Haidt (@JonHaidt)  is an author, social psychologist, and one of the world’s leading experts in moral psychology
  • Host: Sam Harris (@SamHarrissOrg

Books Mentioned

About Jonathan Haidt

  • Jonathan was a philosophy major in college 
    • He then went to graduate school for social psychology
      • Around 2004, Jonathan started studied political polarization
        • For the past 10-15 years, he has been trying to help people understand the different moral matrices of politics so that they can get down to the problem and find pragmatic solutions
  • Jonathan is the founder of the Heterodox Academy: a non-profit advocacy group of professors to counteract what they see as narrowing of political viewpoints on college campuses

Politics Gone Wrong

  • Around the 1970s and ‘80s, America had shifted into two parties: conservatives and progressives
    • “Before that, things were all scrambled and rural people were often democrats…there was a lot of mixing and matching” – Jonathan Haidt
      • During this time, coalitions started to base themselves around values instead of legislation
        • “Now the other side is evil, they’re bad people”
          • “If we hate the other side so much, we don’t care about the common good”
  • As money became more involved in politics, corruption spread 
  • Changes in how social media was used in 2009-2011 gave us an outrage machine in addition to the outrage from cable TV
    • “There was a lot of anger in the 2016 election, had there not been so much anger, had we not been so polarized, there’s no way Donald Trump would have gotten elected” Jonathan Haidt
      • “If we care about the country, we need to figure out what do we do about this”
        • Most Americans are reasonable people but a small minority are on the extreme left or right who use traditional media or social media as a megaphone to shout their point into the world
          • “Don’t give up on Americans, but it’s almost time to give up on the system or network that we have”
  • It’s harder to find the truth in news because each party has its own agenda and tells the side of the story that benefits it
    • “There are very few trusted gate-keepers of information” Sam Harris

Thoughts on Trump & Biden

  • The remainder of 2020 will be all about the virus and politics
    • “We still don’t know how lethal this disease is” – Sam Harris
    • “I’m hopeful that this virus, this pandemic has humbled everyone” Jonathan Haidt
      • The most opportunistic possibility is that we discover a vaccine by January 2021
        • There are 100 vaccines in development and 3-4 are in clinical trials right now  
  • “I’m certainly hoping that Trump is not reelected” – Jonathan Haidt
    • “If Trump is reelected, I think about the damage to our democracy and our reputation to the world, our standing in the world, I’m terrified to think what will happen”
      • If a vaccine isn’t found by this year, Trump will likely lose a lot of voters because of his failure to deal with the virus proactively
      • However, if a vaccine is discovered this year, Trump will likely be praised and possibly earn more votes
  • “I just feel that whoever Joe Biden is or has been, he’s better than Trump” – Sam Harris
    • Jonathan wants Biden but win, but is worried about his mental health
      • Cognitive decline starts around 30-years old and Biden has never been an eloquent or sharp speaker. He’s run for President twice before and failed both times.  
        • “If Biden was not a good candidate long ago when his brain was much younger, I think there’s not much reason to think he’s going to be much better now and I think we’re seeing the signs of that” Jonathan Haidt
  • “Negative partisan, voting against what you don’t want is more powerful than voting for what you do want and that I think explains how Donald Trump was able to win in 2016”Jonathan Haidt

Shift In Communication

  • The way people get smarter is by having their confirmation biases challenged  
    • Too often people find one piece of evidence that supports their beliefs and they reject any evidence that says otherwise
  • Since the world is now hyper-communicating, there is a lot more public conversations and the audience gets to rate the talk
    • Between 2009-2012, social media platforms added likes and retweets to rate conversations and the algorithm pushed up posts that had the highest engagement even if it was a toxic post
      • “A lot more of our conversations were now in public and being rated which means it was inauthentic, often dishonest, and with a lot more intimidation”  Jonathan Haidt
        • Jonathan says Twitter is like watching rats and cockroaches fighting; he hates it but it’s fascinating to watch
  • The Russians have been trying to mess with US democracy for 50 years and in 2014 they started to use social media to cause outrage and divide Americans

 Social Media Needs Reform

  • “There has to be some type of identity verification for major platforms” Jonathan Haidt
    • You wouldn’t have to post using your real name, but there needs to be a crackdown on intimidation. Ideally, there would be a 3rd party platform that verifies the identity of anyone who wants to join a social media platform and makes sure the person passes the age limit.
      • People shouldn’t be allowed to make death and rape threats without any consequnces. Today if someone’s account gets blocked, they can simply make another account and continue to share toxic posts.
      • Today, an 11-year old kid can lie about their age and make a social media account
  • Freedom of speech doesn’t equal freedom of reach
    • People will millions of followers should have some responsibility over what they share, especially if it isn’t factual
      • News companies are held accountable for sharing information with millions of people, perhaps social media influencers should be as well

Gen-Z Is In Trouble

  • Since 2012, the rates of anxiety, depression, and suicides for Gen-Z have been increasing 
  • The two major causes for this spike were: 
    • The vast overprotection put on kids in the ‘90s, such as not letting them play outside  
    • They were exposed to social media too early in life
      • There is strong evidence for a correlation between heavy social media use and depression and anxiety for young girls
        • “There’s something about public shaming and exposure that’ is especially unhealthy for middle school kids and especially for girls”Jonathan Haidt
          • By 5th or 6th grade, most girls already have a social media account
            • “I think we really need to try to get social media out of middle school”
  • However, there is a silver lining:
    • “Having more adversary in your childhood could end up being beneficial and this is the idea of anti-fragility”Jonathan Haidt
Making Sense with Sam Harris : , , ,
Notes By Alex Wiec

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