Politics and your digital tribe – Shame, Anger, Vote! 3/5

Digital outrage mobs are not the only effect of social media. Many of the effects are fueled by anger and radicalizes your opinion. Is this due to Mark Zuckerberg being a James Bond villain? Even if he aims for a monopoly on online social interaction, it is not to conquer the world. It seems more likely that we went from “sex sells” to “emotions sell“.

Entertainment and the Media make their turnover on your attention. Nothing grabs your attention more than strong emotions which are rooted in the unusual, as the winner of the Nobel prize in Economic Science Daniel Kahneman demonstrated. So on social media we tend to share things that are highly emotional and conflicting: homophobia, xenophobia and ‘libtardism’ become trending, visible to all!

But this is not your fault. It is because other people are stupid and unreasonable!

Who are your social media friends? They probably are people you met in your daily life and that you felt a connection with (similar humor, similar thoughts, political opinions, philosophical ideas, etc.). A facebook study demonstrated that four out of five friends are politically like minded people. A bubble of like minded people. Your ingroup. Your tribe.

Some may argue that this is not psychologically induced but originates from social learning. However we can see this behaviour among many social beings, it seems more likely that what we consider our group is socially constructed and depends on social habit as Daniel Kahneman’s psychological research may highlight, our ingroup are people that we stay in touch with and that we are connected with (even online). So as we socialize with these ‘yes-man‘ (politically like minded people) characters through social-media, a ‘No’ will feel as an attack. An attack on your identity, an attack on ‘your tribe’.

Heart rate increases. Cortisol spikes. Fight-or-flight!

With the rise of technology many workers have been replaced by machines. Their work was often a big part of their identity so they needed a new identity. Whether social identity evolved naturally to center on politics or if it was used by politicians does not matter, this is not the moment to point fingers.

If we consider that marriage is a good indication of social identity then we should accept the fact that American attitudes about marriage have evolved.

As research from the Gallup organization demonstrate, same-sex and ‘interracial’ marriage are less contested. Responding to the question “If you had a daughter of marriageable age, would you prefer she marry a Democrat or a Republican, all other things being equal?” 72% said they do not care in 1958 whereas these years only 45% percent do not care.

Americans social identity has shifted to be mostly determined by political identity; sexual preferences and ‘race’ seems to be less decisive.

So party affiliation is not about choosing a representative party anymore, nor is it about policies any longer: the political scientist Lilliana Mason demonstrates that people have a strong preference for policies that are affiliated to their party, even if they would oppose it when this same policy was unaffiliated.

There is a shift in the purpose of political parties that used to represent social cleavages but are more and more acting like hostile tribes. Can we blame social media for the continuous exposure to anger? It is not only social media that is to blame, the collapse of American community can be illustrated by the shift in bowling with a sports team to bowling alone: societal shifts caused by rapid changes in technology transformed work environments and therefore social activities and civil engagement decreased. Less social interactions turns people less social, more afraid of others and more aggressive.

We can associate the trend of political tribalism to many factors but it seems that a drop in social capital (social interactions), the rapid change in work environment, and anger fuelled by social media are the main elements.

As society evolves so does the science to study it. Sociology has analysed the political realm through the lens of rational human beings and political parties emerging from social cleavages. However these perspectives come short of explaining modern trends. Yale professor Amy Chua has put forward the idea of political tribes. As how these political tribes function and how they have emerged have been explained here above, to delve deeper seems more enthralling to explore Chua’s examples – Iraq, Libya and the US (see: Diagram 2.1 – Tribal countries).

To sum up what happens between these tribes is that one sees the the other tribe (on the other side of the political spectrum in the United States), not as people that they disagree with but as their enemy.

As an example, if you look at the aftermath of South-African Apartheid, the black demographic wants social equality and perceives the white farmers as oppressors and as the enemy. The White (already leaning towards a racial mindset due to the Apartheid) close themself off, and will not attempt to help the black communities while the black communities will continue their attempts of social equality. This divide is automated by social construction and fuelled by anger and fear, dividing the people more and more.

Diagram 2.1 – Tribal countries:

Country Tribes Consequences
Iraq Sunnis

10-15% of the population economically dominant (under Saddam and ottoman Empire)


60% of the population oppressed

Deceptive stability

USA topples the dictatorship

led by Sunnis representatives (under Saddam’s regime).
after that the Shia and Sunnis enter a civil-war.

Libya more than 20 tribes Libya has been in regular civil wars since the cold war due to previous tensions and an attempt to control the oil (which equals political power)
The United States of America The Coastal Elite:

  • Professional wealthy (Well educated, progressives, multicultural & cosmopolitan)
  • “Stupids”


previously dominant in politics and the economy for almost 200 years and clouding the minorities and a deceptionfully stability, like nowadays China (the han-chinese dominant in politics and the economy & smaller minorities)

Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign focused on LGBT, Women and Racial equality, dividing democrate-voters and which led to D. Trumps victory
China Han-chinese dominant in politics and the economy = Chinese identity

Smaller minorities  (Zhuang, Hui, Man, Uyghur, Tibetan, Mongol, Kazakh, Tatars, + 10 others) no power and oppressed

Strong overarching identity, overlapping / oppressing  the voice of the minorities, deceptionful stability.
Indonesia Chinese indonesian, 3% of the population but control 70% of the corporate sector Strong discrimination against chinese indonesian, who often do not have the same rules applied to them
South-Africa Whites 10% of the population controlled all the wealth and politics until the end of Apartheid. (Composed of Europeans – descended from Dutch, English, German colonists working in the Dutch East India Company’s) Since the apartheid, white farmers still control most farmland, and so, due to tribalism, blacks fight for social justice and whites fight for heritage and the proper use of the land, violence towards white farmers have been going on


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