Civic engagement in the time of the #hashtag

Ethan Zuckerman is studying how technology is changing how we try to effect social change.

We used to make change mostly using law as our primary lever. Now we use the legal lever less; we use the levers of norms of markets and technology more often. #MeToo is an example of a norms-based campaign. It’s basically saying, “We’re going to challenge how people talk about sexual assault and sexual harassment.” And once we change that norm, there’s other legal pieces, market pieces, that’ll come into play. But at its heart it’s trying to change how we have certain conversations.

Zuckerman, by the way, is also known as the inventor of the pop-up ad, an achievement for which he has since apologized. In his reformed life, he is professor of MIT’s Media Lab.

Collective narcissism

Today I learned a new concept that, on examination, I think I should have known long ago: collective narcissism. This captures the essence of a common contemporary phenomenon.

As opposed to individuals with narcissistic personality, who maintain inflated views of themselves, collective narcissists exaggerate offences to their group’s image, and respond to them aggressively. Collective narcissists believe that their group’s importance and worth are not sufficiently recognised by others. They feel that their group merits special treatment, and insist that it gets the recognition and respect it deserves. In other words, collective narcissism amounts to a belief in the exaggerated greatness of one’s group, and demands external validation.

Sounds familiar?