How social and physical technologies collaborate to create | Aeon Essays

We follow social norms and, when others don’t follow those norms, we exert pressure on them to conform by being morally outraged at their transgressions. We are motivated to show our moral outrage because it signals our own virtue to the tribe, which raises our value in it. These mechanisms are beneficial for tribal social cohesion, and encourage cooperation in a small tribe. When enabled by social media that reaches billions of people, our innate capacity for moral outrage leads to dysfunctional polarisation. With the face-to-face experience removed, feeling the pain of the accused no longer checks the aggression of our outrage. The large audience of our social-media outrage amplifies our psychological motivation to signal our own moral value. The result, online moral outrage, has had negative consequences for social cohesion and politics. A biological trait that was beneficial in one situation became maladaptive in another.
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