Saturday, October 03, 2015

Gun Control Posts on Facebook

I am sure that your Facebook feed has been covered in posts about gun deaths, gun control, and all sorts of responses to the latest mass killing in Oregon.  Between the originals, reposts, shares, comments, and likes, I must get 100 a day.

What I worry about is the entitlement backslide. This is the effect where we get the venting out of our system by writing or sharing a post, reading the supporting messages from all of our friends and even distant contacts, and feel really good at how widely our opinions are shared.  And then . . . . nothing.  Because we feel like we took steps to promote better gun laws and/or gun safety, we don’t feel obligated to take any steps that might actually change something.  As a result, we are faced with mass shooting after mass shooting. 

The same thing happens with every issue. It is related to the social anonymity effect in which people are less likely to offer help to someone in need when in the middle of a larger crowd.  We calibrate our own behavior based on what the people around us are doing (i.e. social proof).  So if they aren’t helping, we don’t either.  The problem is that this turns into a circle jerk where no one takes the first step and that first inaction propagates to the whole crowd. Same reason no one wants to be first to grab food at a buffet.

But here there are real consequences. It has become so easy to get our sense of accomplishment on social media that even less happens in the real policy sausage-making process.  So we shouldn’t be surprised that nothing gets done.

For everyone who posted something about the incident on Facebook, think of something specific you could do that might really advance some change.  And go do that.  Get your friends to do it too.  That is accomplishment.  Facebook posts are not.