Samuel Hammond on gossip at scale

Samuel Hammond writes,

Closed Facebook groups, subreddits, and Twitter niches are typically self-regulating or have formal moderators, and rarely cause problems. That all changes when one’s online interactions are allowed to propagate far beyond the boundaries of real-life or otherwise opt-in social networks.

. . .Facebook, for example, could easily dampen the tendency of high engagement, sensationalist content from going viral by restricting the visibility of posts that don’t originate from within your friend network or geographical area.

I am not sure how this would work. If it did work, it might prevent gossip from spreading as widely and rapidly as it does now. That in turn might attenuate the influence of gossip on our lives.

I think, though, that the key is getting people to recognize that large-scale society cannot operate by small-scale rules. A small group can adopt “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” A large, complex society cannot do so. A small group can choose not to live by liberal values and instead adopt a hard-edged moral code and live by myths and falsehoods. It works less well in large societies.

On line, people engage in small-scale social control in a large-scale setting. I suppose that trying to confine online activity to small groups is one approach for trying to stop that. I am skeptical that it can work.