Echoes Online: The Power of Memetic Comments
Discover the impact of echo chambers and mimesis in online comments, analyzing how digital discourse shapes social perceptions.
Thu Dec 21 2023
He who is without sin cast the first stone- John 8:7
Online discussions are not for the faint of heart. They are little battlegrounds where opposing ideologies duke it out. You are either ‘for’ or ‘against’ whatever the topic. This polarizing dynamic fosters mimicry or memetic behavior. We copy the people we like and look up to.
Understanding the Memetic Effect
People often mirror the beliefs of those they admire. If someone respects beliefs in ‘X,’ their admirers are more likely to also believe in ‘X’ because they have been influenced by the person they admire rather than independent analysis. Similarly, when two people agree on one opinion, they’re more open to each other’s other views. This is known as mirroring, or, as Rene Girard would say, this is a memetic effect.
René Girard’s concept of mimesis centers on the idea that human desires, interests, and behaviors are imitated mainly from others rather than originating independently. In Girard’s view, we are intrinsically inclined to mimic the desires of those around us, especially individuals we perceive as models or figures of authority. This mimetic desire can lead to harmonious and conflicting relationships, as it not only involves emulating positive traits but can also result in rivalry and competition for the same objectives or status.
In the online world, this mimetic behavior becomes even more pronounced. With its blend of anonymity and impulsivity, the internet acts as a fertile ground for the rapid spread of opinions. Individuals often mirror the perspectives they encounter online, particularly in comment sections where the first few opinions can disproportionately influence subsequent readers. This contributes to the formation of echo chambers, where a single viewpoint is amplified, and contrasting perspectives are minimized. In such an environment, discussions that could be rich and diverse are often simplified into binary arguments.
Anti-memetic Online Conversations
How can we replace these impulse reactions with genuine curiosity and open-mindedness? How can we take advantage of diverse opinions where readers are challenged to think critically?
Give your opinion before you see other people’s views. Lurking wasn’t always a thing. Comments should be hidden before you comment. This would encourage independent thought and curb the memetic trend in online interactions. 9takes does this.
Questions > Hot takes. “Hot takes” or posts do not solicit feedback. Unless someone specifically asks you to write something, posting something online can feel like shouting into the void. Plus, posts or hot takes create a binary situation where you agree or disagree. Questions invite responses and open the door to learning something new. Check out the questions asked on 9takes.
Refocusing on respectful engagement and diverse perspectives can rejuvenate online discourse, enhancing mutual understanding.
The negative effects of mimetics can be stopped. And that is what 9takes is here to do.
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