I know that looking at Facebook comment wars doesn't back this up, but I think when the internet really shines is arguments. The recent theory by Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber about how human reasoning evolved for the purpose of argument uses as evidence findings that people get more reasonable when they argue. In other words, we reason better when we are trying to persuade. I am sure that is not a general rule, but when I read a good point-counterpoint I am struck by how much I can learn -- not just by a journalist saying "he says-she says" but a real back and forth, with supporting evidence from each side, not limited to what will fit in a 1000 word newspaper piece, as interpreted by a generalist.
My sense of Facebook, not based on research but based on some experience and observation, is that for some people Facebook creates a kind of friendship that is more superficial than the kind that grows out of hours spent together in one another’s company. Of course, social media is a way to keep in touch with real friends and expand your network of more casual, less intimate relationships. But it also makes it possible to feel like you have a meaningful social life when, in reality, you are missing something. I did not offer this as a scientific fact but as an observation and a concern.He ends the letter with a smarmy, "and now I have to go earn a paycheck." This is exactly it. If I am interested in this issue, I want somebody like Tefukci, who looks for evidence, interprets it within a context of other evidence, who is dogged and persistent. If some evidence is lacking, then look for more. (Here is more, by the way). I want to read someone who wants to stick around and argue, I don't want someone to make a few "observations," share a few "concerns," and then leave. I don't want a smarter generalist, who's got great "general critical thinking skills" and is an expert at making anything readable, a nice narrative, and interesting. I want someone who has found this issue interesting for 25 years, and is going to find this issue interesting for another 25. I'll skim a little, forgive typos, ignore a little jargon here and there, follow and appreciate the links. And I'll tune in more and more, to my trusted sources on specific issues, not a single trusted source on general issues.