Assuming everyone is a gullible moron

Somebody lied on the internet. Happens every day. Yet, for some reason there’s a great temptation to engage. A temptation to step in and correct the lie. I’d say this is equally as true when the lie is obvious. I see this most on Twitter but it happens in most places with a comments section. There’s something deeply tempting about stepping in to comment. For a long time, I wasn’t sure what it was. Now I think it’s ego. There is a little part of all of us that assumes everyone else is a gullible moron.

This isn’t limited to lies on the internet. There are plenty of examples in which we assume we’re the exception. Most of us, when asked, will report to be above average at driving, better looking and most and smarter than most of our peers. All of this despite the fact that statistically, that’s impossible.

In much the same way, when we see something obviously wrong on the internet we’re enticed to act. If we don’t say something, how would anyone know this is wrong. If we leave it alone it might spread, it might become a “well known fact” that’s built on a lie.

We become tempted to be the hero but in the end, we’re taking the bait. The sign of a good troll is to be compelling enough to engage without being down right insane. Toe the line of truth just enough that we move to correct the narrative. We rise up swinging the sword of “um, actually” with the hope that we’ll correct our way to victory.

Ideas like these become self reinforcing. Adding our comments helps to show just how lucky it was that we were there. Instead we need faith in each other. An understanding that we’re not above the average, and that’s okay. If we’re nothing special and we can see behind the curtain, others can too. Trust that we’re not all fools. A trust that extends beyond bandwagons on the internet.

If we can shift to a default of “this is BS and everyone can see it” we start to set different defaults. Defaults are a strangely powerful thing. They set us up for a lot of our downstream behaviour. When the default is trust and a sense that its us against the same forces we build community. We look to others and give the subtle head nod of “look at these fools trying to pass this off as true”. We lose the temptation to engage. There’s no need to correct the lie, it’s an obvious lie. We can shift our focus from engaging in pointless town squares and start focusing on real problems. Working together to make things better.

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