Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Why your focus in online posting or voting doesn't need to reflect your priorities

One of the mistakes people make in approaching a site like Facebook is to tell someone: "You're posting more about X than Y, so you obviously care more about X than Y."

A good response would be: "No, I care about making Facebook feeds better, and I see that Y is getting 10 times as much attention as X, so I'm posting more about X to improve the overall balance."

That could be rational even if I care twice as much about Y as I do about X. That's thinking more about the site as a whole than how to signal what I care about.

You can also apply this idea to voting.

For instance, let's say reducing cruelty to animals ranks #20 on my list of political goals. But maybe I think almost no other voters are going to consider that issue at all when they cast their votes. In order to correct the overall neglect of that issue, I could rationally make the question of which candidate will be best for animals the #1 factor in how I cast my vote. That makes it sound like I think animal issues are more important than any other issues, but what it really means is that I'm thinking about the whole democratic process instead of, again, how to signal what I care about.


(Photo by Paul Sableman.)