point times new roman font size 12 throughout W r i t i n g
Maria Konnikova “The Limits of Friendship”
Jon Ronson “How the Online Hate Mob Set Its Sights on Me”
In this New Yorker article, contributing writer and psychologist Maria Konnikova questions how the increased use of social media may be changing the nature of human friendships, framing her exploration with the “Dunbar Number,” the hypothesis that the average human brain can maintain about 150 casual friendships. Examining further research into the neurology of physical touch by anthropologist and psychologist Robin Dunbar, Konnikova argues that strong-tie friendships depend on physical rather than virtual interactions because they create a “synchronicity of shared experience.” She concludes with Dunbar speculating about the decline of social awareness and bonding: “’It’s quite conceivable that we might end up less social in the future, which would be a disaster because we need to be more social—our world has become so large.’” In this essay written for the UK periodical The Guardian, Jon Ronson describes his experiences since the publication of his 2015 book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. After the publication of the book, Ronson found himself at the center of a shaming “online hate mob” of his own, not dissimilar to those of the subjects of his book. Ronson uses the experience to consider the benefits of online mob justice and wonders whether the cruelty of social-media homogeneity has outweighed its potential to cultivate empathy. “The great thing about social media was how it gave a voice to voiceless people,” he concludes. “We are now turning it into a surveillance society where the smartest way to survive is to go back to being voiceless.” –
Please consider the following prompt while writing your next essay:
How can social media be used to preserve empathy and curiosity?
Why is that so vital for the society these days?
THOUGHT –PROVOKERS Below are some further questions that may be useful to consider in generating your argument. Remember that you only need to address the above prompt in bold:
1. At the beginning of the essay, Konnikova says that a lot of people think “isn’t it easier to have more friends when we have Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to help people cultivate and maintain them. However, by the end, Konnikova contends, “Our Dunbar number may shrink” Why this is the case?
2. Ronson writes, “On social media we’d had the chance to do everything better, but instead of curiosity we were constantly lurching towards instant cold judgment.” What is the “everything” he refers to, and how could it have been made “better”?
3. What does Ronson define as the opposite of “curiosity”? Which does he prefer, and why?Ronson writes that “using social media to distribute those videos as a world away from the Justine Sacco witch-hunt.” What were “those videos” and what makes it a “world away” from the Justine Sacco event?
4. Ronson uses the terms “voice,” “voiceless,” and “surveillance” in relation to one another. What is the meaning of each term, and how do they relate to one another?
5. Ronson is surprised to realize that Sacco’s shaming had even included death threats, while his had not (Ronson 3). Why does he believe the hate mob reaction was more intense toward Sacco?
6. Ronson says that his war on Twitter turns him into a “caricature” (Ronson 6).
What caused him to act as a caricature?
Quotations should be carefully transcribed, punctuated, and attributed. You must use MLA bibliographic conventions. Please also follow the conventions of standard edited American English. Use 1.0-inch margins on all sides, double-spacing, and twelve-point Times New Roman font size 12 throughout. Number all pages. Word count should be included at the end of the essay.
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