Is it possible to arrive at a justifiable number of people dead as a result of Facebook existing?
For example, this Anti-vax nonsense seems to be spread and fueled by Facebook groups, allowing the dangerous mindset to take hold deeper, and spread faster, than without the network. How many more deaths, then, because of Facebook?
Looking for numbers or approximations that are easily recognized as clearly a consequence of the existence of Facebook. If there are multiple steps with unclear correlation, then let’s leave it out.
For example: Facebook made it possible for widespread foreign intervention in US elections, making it responsible for Trump to get elected, which in turn meant changes to the education people get in K-12, Which in turn means poorer diet choices of those students in the future, leading to more deaths of diabetes - that would be to far removed, and the correlation too difficult to specify for the cascade of factors.
Facebook is a tool. If it weren’t for FB these groups would be using some other app, program, or communications mechanism for spreading misinformation. It’s not like this wasn’t happening before FB or the internet. Certainly, some bad things are being conducted on FB but so are many good things.
Bottom line, I don’t think it’s possible because I don’t believe the premise of the question.
Well, my question was prompted by the fact that excessively stupid ideas seem to be so very wide-spread now. I understand that in part this may just be perception bias - I notice it more because it is reported more. But it also seems to feed on itself: it is, if you will, more organized- and much of that organization seems to be through Facebook. Not sure the telephone would have been as useful in this. Anyway, clearly the TM disagree, so never mind.
A pretty good definition of the human evolutionary niche is that we’re the supreme cooperators. We’re the most intelligent species, sure; but the reason that we totally dominate the world is that we’re extremely good at working together cooperatively to achieve vastly more than we could achieve individually. As you say (OP), it’s easy to forget this through reporting bias - what’s “news” is not the normal state of affairs of phenomenally well organized and efficient cooperation among vast numbers of people; it’s the atypical occasions when this cooperation breaks down.
Every stage of improvement in the efficiency of human communication since the evolution of language has been a huge net positive for humanity, since it allows us to cooperate more effectively. Obviously it also allows more efficient cooperation among bad actors, and any medium that facilitates the dissemination of good ideas also facilitates the dissemination of bad ideas. But it also makes it much more difficult for bad actors to get away with evil when information about their activities is widely and publicly disseminated. And you might as well say that all forms of human communication are a bad thing because without them we couldn’t develop the levels of technology and organization to conduct global warfare. Was life better for our hominid ancestors before the evolution of language? I guess in those days we were all on a paleo diet and Big Pharma wasn’t conspiring against us.
So is there some reason why you think the Facebook medium is some kind of inherently corrupting exception, and not just part of the most recent phase of improvement in human communication?
They may be, but I think it’s just more that you are capable of seeing more people talking excessively stupidly. Any actual increase in stupid beliefs certainly predates Facebook; anyone who’s been on the boards as long as you should remember the 5-plus years of morons with “9/11 was an inside job!” theories.
If this is a legitimate question, then so is the question of how many lives Facebook has saved. Surely, some people have done the right thing, or refrained from doing the wrong thing, because of information, arguments, links, and/or peer pressure they’ve seen on Facebook.