In the podcast I make with Lee Miller called Midlifing Lee and I keep coming back to the ways in which human beings depend on the concepts of us and them. That it’s impossible to avoid what Lee calls “us-ing and them-ing”. Or, as blogger Dave Cormier writes, every ‘we’ makes a ‘them’. The way in which we are drawn to ‘we’ seems to tie in so strongly with our need to belong.
Last year I read Roger McNamee’s Facebook exposé called Zucked and noted this:
In an essay in the MIT Technology Review, UNC professor Zeynep Tufekci explained why the impact of internet platforms on public discourse is so damaging and hard to fix. “The problem is that when we encounter opposing views in the age and context of social media, it’s not like reading them in a newspaper while sitting alone. It’s like hearing them from the opposing team while sitting with our fellow fans in a football stadium. Online, we’re connected with our communities, and we seek approval from our like-minded peers. We bond with our team by yelling at the fans of the other one. In sociology terms, we strengthen our feeling of ‘in-group’ belonging by increasing our distance from and tension with the ‘out-group’—us versus them. Our cognitive universe isn’t an echo chamber, but our social one is. This is why the various projects for fact-checking claims in the news, while valuable, don’t convince people. Belonging is stronger than facts.”