Every instructor on campus has likely encountered the phenomenon: that student who thinks she or he is doing great when they’re at the bottom of the class.
It’s called the Dunning–Kruger effect: the science of stupid. According to an article in the U.S. National Institutes of Health, people tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities because people who are unskilled suffer a dual burden: Not only do they reach wrong conclusions, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it.
In a nutshell, stupid people think they’re smarter than everyone else (often including the instructor), while smart people think everyone is as smart as they are.
We’ve all seen the intersection of Dunning–Kruger and Facebook. The meme mentality, where people believe in an idea despite all evidence to the contrary. In particular – this year, anyway – are the memes about Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and … that other guy. The loud one, the apparent Republican presidential candidate. The guy who bloviates about walls, and undocumented immigrants, and banning all Muslims from entering the country.
Once, Facebook was fun. It was a great way to keep up with what people were doing and to catch up with old friends.
Facebook wants to make as much money as possible, and continues to tweak its algorithms, the programming codes that determine what users see. The average FB user with a few hundred friends could see as many as 10,000 posts a week.
But Facebook knows that posts about the things we disagree with are more likely to get a response, so it’s more likely that a liberal Democrat will see more posts about Donald Trump and a conservative Republican will see more about Hillary Clinton.
Which is why people never see a number of posts from their friends in agreement with their political ideology, whether they think that global warming is real or if they believe that the Earth is 6,000 years old and Jesus rode a dinosaur, or if they think that the planet is being run by reptilian overlords (believe it or not, 12 million people in the U.S. think that’s true, according to “The Wire”).
Facebook knows that pissing people off is a good business model.
I try to be a reasonable guy. Let’s discuss an issue like adults, like we would if we were in a room together. Convince me or let me convince you.
But it seems that my Facebook friends from the Sanders camp and, to a greater extent, the Trump train, are victims of Dunning–Kruger. They seem to have no interest in a dialog, or to confront evidence that proves them wrong.
Of course, people who are victims of the Dunning–Kruger never know it (and this is the big worry of David Dunning, who observed the phenomenon and wonders if he’s ever the unwitting victim of the effect named for him and his collaborator).
So… it could be me. And I’ll never know.
After much frustration – some of these are people I’ve known for more than a decade – a solution appeared. Instead of engaging people with entrenched ideas, my current reply is:
“Rather than get involved in a discussion which will leave us both frustrated and do nothing to change each others’ minds, I’m going to wish you a great day. Glad we’re friends.”
Still, I’d rather go back to the days when Facebook was cat videos instead of the hateful stuff that we see posted every day.