Penn researchers find social media usage increases feelings of depression, loneliness


A new study by Penn psychologist and Associate Director of Clinical Training Melissa G. Hunt established a causal relationship that Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram usage increases feelings of depression and loneliness.

The study, co-authored by 2018 College graduates Rachel Marx and Courtney Lipson, as well as College senior Jordyn Young, monitored the social media usage of 143 undergraduate Penn students over a four-week span.

No previous studies had gone beyond establishing an association or correlation between social media usage and well-being.

Additionally, many previous studies relied on self-reported measures concerning the amount of time participants used social media, while Hunt’s study had students submit iPhone battery screenshots which measured time spent on each active app.

In the study, one control group was allowed to continue with regular Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat usage while another intervention group was instructed to limit their usage to 10 minutes per app per day.

To measure well-being, Hunt’s team then had participants complete a subjective weekly survey that used seven scales including loneliness, depression, anxiety, fear of missing out, social support, self-esteem, and autonomy and self-acceptance.

Out of these categories, the study’s results showed both a clinically and statistically significant decrease in loneliness and depression for the group that limited their social media time to ten minutes per app daily. Slight decreases in anxiety and fear of missing out were also observed.

Young said the Penn study was unique due to its more conclusive relationship between social media and negative effects.

“We were actually able to prove a causal link between the two, meaning that if you use less social media, it will make you less depressed and less lonely,” Young said. “As opposed to just saying ‘if you use less [social media], you are more likely to be less depressed and less lonely.’”

Hunt and Young emphasized that the study did not intend to eliminate social media usage entirely among the intervention group.

“We recognize that social media is an integral part of our daily lives, and it’s unreasonable to have them stop using it completely,” Young said.

The study acknowledged it was limited in its ability to monitor students’ social media usage beyond their iPhones. It also only focused on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, whereas social media entails a number of other platforms.

Despite these limitations, Hunt said the study offers important insights regarding the impact of these apps.

“Some of the existing literature on social media suggests there’s an enormous amount of social comparison that happens,” Hunt told Penn Today. “When you look at other people’s lives, particularly on Instagram, it’s easy to conclude that everyone else’s life is cooler or better than yours.”

Young shared Hunt’s sentiments.


How Big a Role Does Social Media Play in Homegrown Terrorism?

A man takes a moment at each of the Star of David memorials with the names of the 11 people who were killed at the Tree of Life synagogue two days after a mass shooting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Oct. 29, 2018.

In the 17 years since the 9/11 attacks, America’s tendency has been to look outside of its borders for the looming threat of violent extremism. Yet a sense of guilty introspection swept over the country when it was discovered that enemies from within had carried out two hate-fueled plots in the span of less than a week.

The deadly rampage on a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa., and the letter bombing campaign that targeted prominent Democrats cast a spotlight on the vicious political environment, the mounting threat posed by homegrown terrorism and the rise of far-right extremism in the social media age.

As details about the suspects, Robert Bowers and Cesar Sayoc, came into public view, the similarities were difficult to ignore. Both were single, middle-aged, working-class men without social standing. Both were driven by political motivations to carry out their plots. And both sought out — and disseminated — spurious hate-tinged information on social media websites.

While neither Sayoc, nor Bowers, has been officially linked with any particular right-wing extremist organizations, both seized upon talking points espoused by such groups which is defined by online trolls, racist activists and hate-filled misogynists. Such connections may come to light in the days and weeks to come, as more is learned about these men and their involvement online.

Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, anti-government militants, and other like-minded organizations have long been a source of anxiety to terrorism analysts who have watched the groups step up violence inside United States in recent years. The Anti-Defamation League, the left-leaning nonprofit that tracks anti-Semitism, found in its annual report that the number of murders conducted by white supremacists in the U.S. more than doubled last year to 20 people, compared to 2016. The report documented how right-wing extremist sentiments shared online often spill into real world, including the march on Charlottesville, Va., which resulted in the vehicle ramming attack that killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, far-right extremists were responsible for almost three times as many attacks as Islamist extremists: 62, as compared to 23, according to a 2017 Government Accountability Office report. Over that time, the report said far-right attacks killed 106 people in the United States, while Islamist-inspired extremists killed 119.

Around the world, the number of terrorist attacks dropped last year, according to the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database. However, terrorism in the United States is on the rise. The reason, at least in part, is due to the spate of attacks motivated by far-right extremists.

“The data suggests we’re potentially seeing a new wave of violence by these groups,” said Seth Jones, a former U.S. counter-terrorism official now with Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. “After years of focusing on the international violent extremism, we’re starting to see an increase in resources on the threat here at home.”

The Trump Administration acknowledged “domestic terrorism in the United States is on the rise” in its new “National Strategy for Counterterrorism” that was published earlier this month. The 34-page document said there was “a persistent security threat from domestic terrorists who are not motivated by a radical Islamist ideology but are instead motivated by other forms of violent extremism, such as racially motivated extremism, animal rights extremism, environmental extremism, sovereign citizen extremism, and militia extremism.”

A large part of combating the threat hinges on stopping the spread of terrorist ideology online, the document said.

Since the dawn of the Internet, hate-seekers have been able to find chat rooms or websites in the dark corners of the Web. But the emergence of social media sites, such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, has since made hate speech and misinformation far more accessible to anyone with a smart device. The troubling question in the wake of this last surge of violence is whether social media makes attacks by extremists more likely.

“Social media has connected those who would otherwise be unable to connect, been used to inspire those who would otherwise not be reached, driven viral ideas that would previously have been limited to the margins, and mainstreamed political leaders who have given legitimacy to the conspiracy theories and hate that extremist groups and individuals thrive on,” said Peter W. Singer, author of “Like War,” a book on the weaponization of social media.

As more misinformation pinballs around the internet, experts in terrorism and information warfare point out that a deadly pattern has emerged.

While the world’s attention was on the letter bomb threats last week, another attack occurred. Gregory Bush, a 69-year old white man who also shared racist imagery through social media, shot and killed a black woman and man in a grocery store parking lot in Louisville, Ky. Earlier he tried to break into a black Baptist church, but failed. Federal investigators are examining whether the attacks can be classified as “hate crimes.”

The FBI recently reported that hate crimes reached their highest mark since 2012. The bureau recorded 6,121 criminal incidents in 2016 motivated by bias against race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or gender, according to the most recent data. Most incidents were motivated by race or ethnicity, the FBI said.

Earlier this month, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray told a Senate committee that the bureau was investigating 5,000 terrorism cases in every U.S. state. About 1,000 of those cases involved domestic terrorism, a category that includes both far-right and far-left extremists. “We have assessed that that’s a steady, very serious threat,” Wray said, adding: “It’s something we take very seriously.”

Sayoc, who is suspected of mailing 14 pipe bombs to Democrats and critics of President Donald Trump, posted right-wing conspiracy theories on Facebook and Twitter. He was Facebook friends with an account called “Killgeorge Soros,” a reference to the liberal billionaire who was sent one of the packages.

Bowers, who stands accused of killing 11 people inside a synagogue, also spread misinformation on a social media site called Gab, which has become a haven for right-wing extremists as an alternative to the more restrictive Twitter.

Two hours before the attack, Bowers took to Gab to lambast HIAS, a Jewish-American organization that helps international refugees resettle in the United States and elsewhere. He wrote: “HIAS likes to bring invaders that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics. I’m going in.”

Free speech advocates and some who work at social media platforms say trying to suppress hate speech is more dangerous than allowing it to be aired and defeated.

Gab was established two years ago after Facebook and Twitter were pressured by the federal government to be more proactive in policing racist and anti-Semitic posts. Gab’s commitment to unfettered “free speech” has made it popular with many fringe right-wing groups, including the so-called alt-right.

“We’re very worried about people’s rights,” Utsav Sanduja, Gab’s then-Chief Operating Officer, told Vice earlier this year. “A lot of political speech is being labelled as hate speech and is simply being wiped off the map.”

The former employee told TIME he thought it was important for sites like Gab to exist.

“Frankly, I would rather have that sort of content above ground as opposed to being underground,” Sanduja said. “When you censor people and deprive their rights to speak freely, unfortunately, some of them go criminal, and they go underground.”

Gab was temporarily shut down after GoDaddy, the site’s webservice provider, pulled its support Sunday night following the synagogue attack. The next day, Gab issued a statement promising users the site would return.

“Gab isn’t going anywhere,” it said, in part. “You can’t stop an idea.”


How To Avoid A Social Media Faux Pas That May Damage Your Job Hunt

There’s no denying that social media plays a role in today’s job search process. Networking sites such as LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter and even Facebook allow for both potential employers and job candidates to research one another. For candidates, these sites provide the perfect opportunities to read up on job opportunities and the interests, brands and stories tied to specific companies. Likewise, companies can research potential new hires outside of what is written on their CV or how they appear in the interview.

Horror stories have been told about candidates who completed perfect interviews only to be given the cut for a social media faux pas. So, how can job seekers prevent their social media presence from harming their job search efforts? What should be avoided in order to prevent bad impressions? Below, 15 members of Forbes Coaches Council provide their top tips for avoiding social media faux pas and making an impact with social media — in a good way.

Members of Forbes Coaches Council share their insight.All images courtesy of Forbes Councils members.

1. Be Intentional About Posting

First impressions matter, and oftentimes your social media impressions ought to align with who you are. If you are going to use social media, be intentional and mindful of everything. The information you consume, share or create reflects who you are. Have a goal, adhere strongly to it and use social media strategically to amplify issues and perspectives that align with your core values. –Dr. Flo Falayi,Hybrid Leaders, Inc

2. Keep It Clean And Professional

Inappropriate use of social media can be considered “career suicide.” Think before you post and consider what the outside world would think from an objective viewpoint. Delete inappropriate photos and refrain from entering into online debates about topics that can diminish your professional persona. When it comes to your professional reputation, you are the perception you give to the outside world. –Wendi Weiner, Esq.,The Writing Guru®

3. Make Your Posts Not Always About You

One of the most effective social posts I saw recently was of a COO in search who wrote on LinkedIn to employers about four other candidates he’d recently met — how fantastic they were, about their talents and successes and included the links to each of their profiles. He wasn’t talking about himself! How he did this said so much about his character and “hireability.” Putting others first counts. –Joanne Meehl,Joanne Meehl Career Services, LLC


4. Be Consistent, Clear And Concise

Establish your brand consistently across all social media accounts. Your voice, tone and imagery should all reflect who you are and what you stand for, and visual consistency is important. Be sure that any social media engagement reflects your skills and most importantly, provides value rather than simply filling empty space. –Tracey Grove,Pure Symmetry Coaching and Consulting

5. Take Your Digital Life Seriously

If you are seriously in a job search it’s time to take your whole life seriously. First, conduct a close inventory of your online presence. Remove any posts that you think will negatively impact how prospective employers would perceive you. Ask someone close to you for their assessment of your online posts as well. Second, stop posting things that you know will not present you professionally. –Warren Zenna, Zenna Consulting Group

6. Don’t Forget Tagged Posts

Everyone knows to clean up their online footprint and what should remain visible. But most forget about “tagged” photos and posts by family and friends. These by far are the biggest liability my clients face. I recommend performing a comprehensive public search of your name and social media profiles to see what surprises show up. Then quickly fix them! –Candace Barr,Strategic Resume Specialists

7. Put Yourself In Your Potential Employers’ Shoes

Before posting on social media, ask yourself, “If someone took a screenshot of this and sent it to my prospective employers, how would I feel?” If the answer makes you want to press backspace, backspace, backspace, then apply that rule to real life and do not post. Err on the side of caution. Just because your profile is private doesn’t mean that screenshots of your posts will remain private too. – Chizzy Igbokwe,The Art of Global Citizenship

8. Express A Clear Career Focus

One of the biggest mistakes I see on professional social media sites is the inability to express a career focus. Everything from your profile photo to the content you share defines your brand. Be sure to highlight relevant experience, accomplishments, awards, projects, publications and skills to focus your value-statement. Make sure all of your social media content is relevant to your focus. –Erin Urban,UPPSolutions, LLC

9. Avoid Non Value Added Content

Since employers will often develop an impression of you based on your social media accounts, make sure you put as much value-added content on them as possible. Don’t be seen as a person who stays on social media all day with nothing interesting or helpful to say. Often times, less is just better. –Donald Hatter,Donald Hatter Inc.

10. Don’t Say ‘Seeking New Work’ In Your Headline

Besides the obvious misspellings, grammatical issues, tendency to gripe away your day on Twitter or poorly chosen profile photo, choose a positive headline that represents who you are, what you’ve done or ways you can help a business. Placing “seeking a new position” or “currently looking for work” doesn’t help your positioning. Showcasing your gap in employment can sound desperate to people. –Joanne Markow,GreenMason

11. Avoid Sharing Employers’ Competitive Intelligence

In sharing your accomplishments, consider whether the information will violate an employer’s competitive intelligence. This may include information regarding technology or product innovations, market development strategies, mergers, acquisitions or pending sale of the company. Potential employers check social media and may consider you a risk if you’ve shared sensitive information. – Beverly Harvey,HarveyCareers, LLC

12. Articulate Your ‘Good Impression’ In The First Place

In order to prevent making a bad impression, you should articulate what a good impression about you means. Jot down the adjectives that you want any public readers, including future employers, to know about you. This helps determine posts and photos that you share with the public. Keep anything that doesn’t support your personal brand private by utilizing the privacy setting of social media. – Amy Nguyen,Happiness Infinity LLC

13. Tone Down Politics And Personal Bias

If you’re not posting on-brand specific topics, your career and job search risks go up. Every day I see posts during the day on Facebook, Twitter and even LinkedIn on things political, personal and social. It may show personality but it risks demonstrating your bias and opinion on things that have nothing to do with why you may be hired. Stay on brand and resist strong political or personal opinions. –John M. O’Connor,Career Pro Inc.

14. Consider Anonymous Accounts For Some Activities

I have a colleague in the HR industry who loves to engage in vigorous political debates online through Twitter but her role as an executive recruiter could be negatively impacted by her lively debates. Her solution is a pseudonym for her political online engagement, which she never ever discloses to anyone in her professional life. This boundary gives her freedom in both realms without risks. –Jenn Lofgren,Incito Executive & Leadership Development

15. Google Yourself And See If You Like What You Find

I always encourage people to Google themselves (in incognito mode) — to see what is out there on the web. Then determine if what is out there is in alignment with your personal goals. It might be as simple as making your Facebook private or making your LinkedIn account open. Also, tools like BrandYourself can help you do a risk or reputation analysis for free to see if you have a problem. –Maresa Friedman,Executive Cat Herder


On Social Media, No Answers for Hate

On Monday, a search on Instagram, the photo-sharing site owned by Facebook, produced a torrent of anti-Semitic images and videos uploaded in the wake of Saturday’s shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

A search for the word “Jews” displayed 11,696 posts with the hashtag “#jewsdid911,” claiming that Jews had orchestrated the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Other hashtags on Instagram referenced Nazi ideology, including the number 88, an abbreviation used for the Nazi salute “Heil Hitler.”

The Instagram posts demonstrated a stark reality. Over the last 10 years, Silicon Valley’s social media companies have expanded their reach and influence to the furthest corners of the world. But it has become glaringly apparent that the companies never quite understood the negative consequences of that influence nor what to do about it — and that they cannot put the genie back in the bottle.

“Social media is emboldening people to cross the line and push the envelope on what they are willing to say to provoke and to incite,” said Jonathan Albright, research director at Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism. “The problem is clearly expanding.”

The repercussions of the social media companies’ inability to handle disinformation and hate speech have manifested themselves abundantly in recent days. Cesar Sayoc Jr., who was charged last week with sending explosive devices to prominent Democrats, appeared to have been radicalized online by partisan posts on Twitter and Facebook. Robert D. Bowers, who is accused of killing 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday, posted about his hatred of Jews on Gab, a two-year-old social network.

A memorial outside the Tree of Life synagogue. Robert D. Bowers, who killed 11 people at the synagogue, posted about his hatred of Jews on Gab, a two-year-old social network.CreditMichael Henninger for The New York Times

The effects of social media were also evident globally. Close watchers of Brazil’s election on Sunday ascribed much of the appeal of the victor, the far-right populist Jair Bolsonaro, to what unfolded on social media there. Interests tied to Mr. Bolsonaro’s campaign appeared to have flooded WhatsApp, the messaging application owned by Facebook, with a deluge of political content that gave wrong information on voting locations and times, provided false instructions on how to vote for particular candidates and outright disparaged one of Mr. Bolsonaro’s main opponents, Fernando Haddad.

Elsewhere, high-ranking members of the Myanmar military have used doctored messages on Facebook to foment anxiety and fear against the Muslim Rohingya minority group. And in India, fake stories on WhatsApp about child kidnappings led mobs to murder more than a dozen people this year.

“Social media companies have created, allowed and enabled extremists to move their message from the margins to the mainstream,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, a nongovernmental organization that combats hate speech. “In the past, they couldn’t find audiences for their poison. Now, with a click or a post or a tweet, they can spread their ideas with a velocity we’ve never seen before.”


Is Social Media more than a time waster?

Image result for Is Social Media more than a time waster?

Eyes glued to phones.


Videos of every life event posted to Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat or Twitter.

What’s the big deal with social media anyway?

“With social media, a business gets instant feedback on who they reach and how effective that reach is,” said Cameron Davis of Razor Thin Media, and former recreation and tourism director for the Town of Payson.

Davis took time out to explain the benefits to the women of the Payson Women’s Leadership Group. The group meets once a month to hear presentations on how to improve their businesses.

For businesses and organizations in the social media age, these platforms can build a brand, improve customer service even manage a company’s reputation, he said.

“Take a look at how many people worldwide YouTube connects with — 1.9 billion,” said Davis. “That’s a huge audience. The population in the U.S. is only 325 million.”

Davis explained that each social media platform has unique characteristics that attract different users.

“Facebook is an older crowd,” said Davis. “Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter attract a younger crowd.”

So, what’s the difference?


Facebook is the oldest of the social media platforms. It allows posts with words, pictures and videos.

Facebook has 2.23 billion monthly active users around the world. About a third range in age from 25 to 34 years. Most of those users are female.

Once a person “friends” another on Facebook, all of the information from the two newsfeeds floods back and forth between the two users.

The other benefit to Facebook? Posts can be made either from a phone or a computer.


Ah, the famous Twitter. For those addicted to news, it’s hard to ignore the daily tweets from the White House.

“Twitter is us following personalities,” said Davis.

According to research, Twitter has 330 million active monthly users.

The social media platform supports 40 languages, with 80 percent of its users living outside the U.S.

Of Twitter’s users, 36 percent are aged 18 to 29. Half of Twitter’s users are men, while women dominate most of the other social media platforms.

Seventy-four percent of Twitter users search for their news using the social media platform. That is a significant increase from just a few years ago.


Instagram works almost solely through cell phones.

“Uploading information has to be from a phone,” he said.

The most recent statistics show Instagram has 1 billion users, the majority of whom are women and come from outside of the U.S.

Almost 60 percent of Instagram users are aged 18 to 29, while a third of the users are aged 30 to 49. About 79 percent of teens say they use Instagram — 79 percent of them use this platform. Posts to Instagram must be a photo or a pdf.


If a business lacks a YouTube channel — get one, said Davis.

“The YouTube audience is five times the size of the U.S.,” he said.

Google bought YouTube a year after its founding in 2006, so it’s now as ubiquitous as the famous search engine.

YouTube can teach someone how to program the clock in their car, create a website or just watch and learn how to play a video game.

Music is the No. 1 search on YouTube.

The younger set much prefers YouTube to television. On mobile phones, YouTube reaches more 18- to 40-year-olds than any broadcast or cable TV network. In an average month, YouTube reaches eight out of 10 of the young demographic.

YouTube serves 76 different languages in 88 countries.

Yet only 9 percent of small businesses have harnessed the power of YouTube.

There are other social media platforms, but Davis only focused on those top four “because they are the biggest,” he said.


Why social media is friend to far-right politicians around the world

It was an awful weekend of hate-fueled violence, ugly rhetoric, and worrisome retreats from our democratic ideals. Today I’m focused on two ways of framing what we’re seeing, from the United States to Brazil. While neither offers any comfort, they do give helpful names to phenomena I expect will be with us for a long while.

The first is stochastic terrorism: “The use of mass, public communication, usually against a particular individual or group, which incites or inspires acts of terrorism which are statistically probable but happen seemingly at random.” I encountered the idea in a Friday thread from data scientist Emily Gorcenski, who used it to tie together four recent attacks.

In her thread, Gorcenski argues that various right-wing conspiracy theories and frauds, amplified both through mainstream and social media, have resulted in a growing number of cases where men snap and commit violence. “Right-wing media is a gradient pushing rightwards, toward violence and oppression,” she wrote. “One of the symptoms of this is that you are basically guaranteed to generate random terrorists. Like popcorn kernels popping.”

On Saturday, another kernel popped. Robert A. Bowers, the suspect in a shooting at a synagogue that left 11 people dead, was steeped in online conspiracy culture. He posted frequently to Gab, a Twitter clone that emphasizes free speech and has become a favored social network among white nationalists. Julie Turkewitz and Kevin Roose described his hateful views in the New York Times:

After opening an account on it in January, he had shared a stream of anti-Jewish slurs and conspiracy theories. It was on Gab where he found a like-minded community, reposting messages from Nazi supporters.

“Jews are the children of Satan,” read Mr. Bowers’s biography.

Bowers is in custody — his life was saved by Jewish doctors and nurses — and presumably will never go free again. Gab’s life, however, may be imperiled. Two payment processors, PayPal and Stripe, de-platformed the site, as did its cloud host, Joyent. The site went down on Monday after its hosting provider GoDaddy, told it to find another one. Its founder posted defiant messages on Twitter and elsewhere promising it would survive.

Gab hosts a lot of deeply upsetting content, and to its supporters, that’s the point. Free speech is a right, their reasoning goes, and it ought to be exercised. Certainly it seems wrong to suggest that Gab or any other single platform “caused” Bowers to act. Hatred, after all, is an ecosystem. But his action came amid a concerted effort to focus attention on a caravan of migrants coming to the United States in seek of refugee.

Right-wing media, most notably Fox News, has advanced the idea that the caravan is linked to Jewish billionaire (and Holocaust survivor) George Soros. An actual Congressman, Florida Republican Matt Gaetz, suggested the caravan was funded by Soros. Bowers enthusiastically pushed these conspiracy theories on social media.

In his final post on Gab, Bowers wrote: “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics. I’m going in.”

The individual act was random. But it had become statistically probable thanks to the rise of anti-immigrant rhetoric across all manner of media. And I fear we will see far more of it before the current fever breaks.

The second concept I’m thinking about today is democratic recession. The idea, which is roughly a decade old, is that democracy is in retreat around the globe. The Economist covered it in January:

The tenth edition of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index suggests that this unwelcome trend remains firmly in place. The index, which comprises 60 indicators across five broad categories—electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, democratic political culture and civil liberties—concludes that less than 5% of the world’s population currently lives in a “full democracy”. Nearly a third live under authoritarian rule, with a large share of those in China. Overall, 89 of the 167 countries assessed in 2017 received lower scores than they had the year before.

In January, The Economist considered Brazil a “flawed democracy.” But after this weekend, the country may undergo a more precipitous decline in democratic freedoms. As expected, far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro, who speaks approvingly of the country’s previous military dictatorship, handily won election over his leftist rival.

In the best piece I read today, BuzzFeed’s Ryan Broderick — who was in Brazil for the election — puts Bolsonaro’s election into the context of the internet and social platform. Broderick focuses on the symbiosis between internet media, which excels at promoting a sense of perpetual crisis and outrage, and far-right leaders who promise a return to normalcy.

Typically, large right-wing news channels or conservative tabloids will then take these stories going viral on Facebook and repackage them for older, mainstream audiences. Depending on your country’s media landscape, the far-right trolls and influencers may try to hijack this social-media-to-newspaper-to-television pipeline. Which then creates more content to screenshot, meme, and share. It’s a feedback loop.

Populist leaders and the legions of influencers riding their wave know they can create filter bubbles inside of platforms like Facebook or YouTube that promise a safer time, one that never existed in the first place, before the protests, the violence, the cascading crises, and endless news cycles. Donald Trump wants to Make American Great Again; Bolsonaro wants to bring back Brazil’s military dictatorship; Shinzo Abe wants to recapture Japan’s imperial past; Germany’s AFD performed the best with older East German voters longing for the days of authoritarianism. All of these leaders promise to close borders, to make things safe. Which will, of course, usually exacerbate the problems they’re promising to disappear. Another feedback loop.

A third feedback loop, of course, is between a social media ecosystem promoting a sense of perpetual crisis and outrage, and the random-but-statistically-probable production of domestic terrorists.

Perhaps the global rise of authoritarians and big tech platforms are merely correlated, and no causation can be proved. But I increasingly wonder whether we would benefit if tech companies assumed that some level of causation was real — and, assuming that it is, what they might do about it.