Any advice on how to discuss things online without "shouting?" I have been "arguing on the internet" in some form or another for decades, first on LiveJournal, then in the comments of articles (mostly Matt Yglesias's Slate columns before Slate ruined its commenting system) and now on Twitter.

I do not think I am part of the perpetually discontent. I like to think that I mostly do it as a sounding board for my own thoughts (but I can't rule out the possibility that I'm a "'mansplainer[]' who just want to show off how clever [I am] or listen to [myself] talk.")

What are the the "best practices" for engaging online without becoming part of the problem you describe, short of just shutting twitter and going for a walk.

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Jul 31, 2021Liked by Noah Smith

lots of good points here, the point about immunizing to pain and shouting is really important I think,. I also think it would help to round this out to look at what is good about twitter too. It is popular for a reason. For me, it is really the only place left where people who disagree with each other are actually talking to each other, however dysfunctionally as you point out. That matters.

Facebook used to be but my experience now is that people have withdrawn there almost completely into their silo's. It is hard to get insulted by people you know. When someone posts a political opinion, only people who agree respond, is my experience.

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Great write up. Thanks.

Unfortunately we are so over-communicated that shouting is a fitness trait in many respects.

The Shouting Class is not just malcontents. Self-agrandizers, bloggers, ladder-climbers use the bullhorn as an important (essential) tool of their business model. Being a member of the Shouting Class can pay with the tactical use of the amplification tools. See Substack and LinkedIn for example.

Also re: hardening. Teachers and sports coaches in affluent communities are overwhelmed by pushy parents to the point of building defenses thick enough so that reasonable parents can't get through with reasonable issues that would previously be handled in stride, thus dumbing down the whole system as a result.

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Nguyen, C. Thi (2021). How Twitter gamifies communication. In Jennifer Lackey (ed.), Applied Epistemology. Oxford University Press. pp. 410-436. <https://philpapers.org/rec/NGUHTG> is very good.

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Coincidentally, I read your post and then watched this video of Martin Gurri discussing his book The Revolt of the Public (https://youtu.be/aukv7_xC6ls) at the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities. It seems to me that what you call the Shouting Class is closely related to what Gurri calls the nihilistic public. Are you familiar with Gurri? If so, whadda ya think?

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I have a lot of respect for this post. The only lingering worry I have is whether the conclusions apply in the China context, or if those problems might need special solutions.

We see some odd moments like a Japanese actor asking on Twitter "is anyone watching the Olympics?" (coincidentally as China is losing in ping pong), and immediately forced to apologize for the "insensitivity" of that question.

Or if you don't apologize, well, sometimes even if you do, you end up losing the NBA or your movie franchise hundreds of millions of dollars.

It's exasperating. How do you lance the nationalist anger of a subset of a group you're not technically allowed to talk to online anyway? Or amplify the softer voices interested in constructive engagement, in China and around the world?


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Oh, man. So many things unpack. I want to expand every idea but will focus on some of my concerns about SM. Excellent essay, by the way. I'm genuinely happy to have found your blog. You help place the information age into perspective, among many other things.

To explain my concerns to you and the commentators, I will equate the shouting class with activism. The activism can range from demands for human and civil rights to the hateful and violent material that SM moderators have to filter to the detriment of their mental health. Which are a woeful byproduct of SM and other types of online networks that humanity should be more concerned about. I'm not ethically comfortable with what the SM moderators have to deal with and knowing how WWW is desensitizing people and even driving real-world consequences. I hope there is a genuine technological solution very soon.

Having defined activism for the sake of this comment, I think SM and the WWW have a multiplying effect on activism, whether the activism is for all the things sane people love about democratic values, human rights, and animals or horrible things like authoritarianism, racism, or unadulterated foolishness with a giant mic.

A problem arises when the negative activism is higher than the positive activism, which is a state that I think we are currently in.

I remember in the early 2000s, the positive activists were fool of hope and outnumbered any negative activists. They still are because mostly sane people care about others' wellbeing or the wellbeing of anything once it is understood that something needs to be cared for. Within that comfortable bubble, the techno-utopians wrongly assumed that positive activism would flourish.

With the advent of SM, online publications, and blogs, negative activism gained a staggering share of the activism market. Hopefully, with TFG being the pinnacle of the negative activism, forcing the SM companies to realize for good that some form of negative activism moderation is absolutely, 100% necessary, especially since online activism can be hacked.

We are at a point where democracies realize that something needs to be done because there are many environmental, economic, health, and social troubles that are looming over humanity, and we can't let negative activism keep holding us back.

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Shouting is a reference to sound volume and tone, two things which social media (facebook and twitter at least) lacks. So how can one even categorise these as shouts. Well one way could be to identify rude words ad hominems etc. Apart from that it is just a best guess. What you are percriving as a negative shout could actually be the opposite. On the internet there is little sense of irony or sarcasm.

One reason to calm the shouting class is to help them be free people. Its much easy to call them rabid or unhappy shouters than to actually help them solve their problems. Many are disillusioned by the political class and the elite class (who control the political class) on both sides of politics. And many are venting stress with living standards. You migh say technologivally we are better than ever before. But peoole dont account for massive indebtedness and lack of freedom to exist somewhere in space without coercion. If the political and elite classes dont listen to the voices of reason in those respects (people like Henry George) then they make their own bed of more indebted and more stressed and hopeless feelinh people and more anger. Just labelling them the shouting class without a plan of solving these problems wont subdue them. So i dont believe its just a technopogical shouting problem of bias nor can it be fixed by just calling them out as shouters or taking away their shouting capacity (cancel culture). The people with the power (political and elite classes) actually have to learn to care sbout the populice and ask how can we help them be free and less indebted into servitude or menial meaningless work and btw less threatened by the looming threat of automation (forget immigrants) taking their jobs and ability for them and their families to survive.

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There are a few ways to see a solution, but all of which are hard:

1. Elimination of the Shouting Class, which the Tumblr Exodus and the Twitter cesspit demonstrates, it cannot be done

2. Forced Containment of the Shouting Class, which the /pol/ attitude and Reddit's unwillingness to fairly moderate, demonstrates that people are not willing to accept it as a solution

3. Retirement and Conversion of the Shouting Class into more productive activities

For #3, the solutions can either be through civilized creative expression (Yarvin's "Armigers"), or through comfort and sedation (M.O. Church's "Idle Rich"). This implies that the head of the Shouting Class is merely the affluent with nothing better (fulfilling) to do.

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My wife and I are both heavy users of FB and (me) twitter and we solved the issue by mutting anyone who shared opinions we did agree with. You're a Trump antivaxer, no problem but I don't need to see your posts. Secondly I stopped sharing and commenting on anything political. Why share an anti Trudeau post and when I can share a Debbie Downer post and make people laugh!

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This made me think of Eric Hoffer's _The True Believer_ (written in 1951!) and this great post on samzdat which both discuss mass movements: https://samzdat.com/2017/06/28/without-belief-in-a-god-but-never-without-belief-in-a-devil/

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An old memory popped up. Back in the early days of the internet and blogging there were teams who's purpose in life was to highhackj comments just for shits and giggles. Could there be similar teams doing that to Qanon??? To dig the rabbit hole deeper and wider???

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I always loved this post. Goes well with your famous (and correct) prescription to block heavily and often. The shouters have an easy job on social media because speech is cheap and people still think they have a responsibility to listen. Mass blocking of anyone who disrupts the user experience really is effective. There's always someone who can share the same perspective in a less obnoxious manner.

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Overall good post. The one the type of shouter not covered and I would like to add is self-edification. Some people shout for their own egos to be built up.

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pretty close to true... ugh.

this is why i built a communication / community tool that allows more folks to "shout their shit" (shoot our shot...? lol) which reduces the overall impact of all this nonsense.

when everyone can shout, it's less interesting. social media fucked us. time to recapture and control it once again. not censorship... just democratization.

there is only one twitter... what if we all had our own? imagine. we wouldn't have to put up shouting matches.

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Yes, folks with a grievance will shout. Learned that sometime around 1996 when faced with a back operation I researched what was said about the results of a similar operation. Happy folks don't post their results but sure as hell those who have had a bad result will shout. There has to be some economics here. Shouting is cost free so you are gonna get a lot of it.

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