Stupid Belief Systems

A while back, I talked a bit about how the attempt to lower technical barriers to the Internet invariably results in those using the service to scorn and ridicule when they attempt to deal with the problem. In this case, it was a thought experiment on what it would be like to deal with iPad users if you were a non-Apple customer service rep.

I used customer service, because I didn’t think the stigma I saw in the early 90s against AOL users had a modern corollary. Then, like a beacon of pure brilliance comes the comment thread to’s Facebook Wants to be Your One True Login.

As the story goes, a bunch of readers became confused when they typed, “Facebook Login” into Google and arrived at this article. As you can see played out in the article, enough people seemed to be confused to make it absolutely hilarious. The folks insist that these are real users having real indignation at the “redesign” of their favorite site.

Here is the exact fervor I remember on both sides. The angry wild-swinging-punches entitlement from the folks trying to log into Facebook on a blog, and the happy ridicule from the folks in the know.

However, it wasn’t long before I realized something else. I realized that this is actually an awesome microcosm in which to examine a phenomenon I’ve noticed for some time: dealing with people who have “stupid” belief systems.

Now, I’m not going to signal anyone out, even though I’m itching to. Again, this is because I like to avoid debate as much as possible. However, think of your favorite crusader for anything that has been proven “wrong” time and time again by scientific trials and experimentation. Think of people who are advocating political policies/conspiracies that are baseless in their foundation.

Now, examine the situation going on with the article.

You’ll see something wonderful, something profound. The “clueless” commentators, the ones say are coming from web searches for “Facebook Login,” are MAD, they are ANGRY, they CAN’T TAKE IT ANY MORE.

The thing they’re rallying against is a Facebook redesign that hasn’t happened. They’re rallying against a mistake in perception they have. They’re arguing against an illusion.

The emotions are real. The problem isn’t.

What a gift. What an absolute gift of insight into our own situations. What an absolute gift of insight in the capacity for human stupidity. Perhaps, if we’re smart, even our own.

Because unlike any philosophical or pseudoscientific debate, the people who think that is a redesigned Facebook are undeniably, splendidly, titanically WRONG.

What I have yet to see in this is one of the people who believes they’re logging into Facebook arguing with the people trying to get them to understand. When THAT happens, if that happens, we’ll gain even more insight.

Finally, we’ll eventually get to see what happens when the people who thought they were logging into Facebook realize their error, and attempt to deal with getting over their own egos. I predict at least a few people will accuse of intentional fraud.

The sad thing is, we won’t actually learn as much as we can from this. Because of the way our brains work, we will put the people whose ideals differ from ours in the “stupid” camp, and cast ourselves as those “in the know.”

Which is unfortunate, because unless you’re ACTUALLY in the know, (like me), you’re going to look pretty stupid. See what I did there?

On this note, I once had an instructor who informed us that psychological theory normally mirrored great technological achievements of the day. The theory of humors came about around the same time as the aqueducts, or the idea of signals travelling on nerves “like wires” came about around the same time as the telegraph.

“Now,” she concluded, “We know the brain works pretty much like a computer.”

“Because that’s the great technological achievement of our day?” I asked.

“No,” she replied. “It works like a computer.”

Make of that what you will.


About paulgude

Paul Gude writes small books, makes stupid music, draws silly pictures, and does weird things on stage.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Stupid Belief Systems

  1. paulgude says:

    Dipping back into the comment threads. At 400+ there are basically two new permutations.

    1) People mocking the confused users by aping them. Most are so “over the top” stupid you know they’re joking. Still, I have to think that by this time there are some folks who are trying to mimic the Facebook users who are having trouble closely enough that they’re indistinguishable from the real thing.

    2) Facebook users who get that people are making fun of the people who are complaining about the “redesign,” but still don’t fully understand what’s going on. It’s a sort of, “I’m with you, those people are nuts,” sentiment, with an added, “But still, you have to admit it’s confusing.” Again, though, at this point there will be little way to tell who’s real and who’s having fun perpetuating the joke.

  2. paulgude says:

    Okay, here’s what I was looking for…

    Around 482, a user complains about everyone thinking this is funny, then demanding they fix the password.

    This may be the start of some cross-talk between the groups.

    (Or a troll having fun. Just leaving that one out there.)

  3. paulgude says:

    Oh, I almost forgot.

    I’ve also counted two people who are neither complaining about the “redesign” or making fun of the complainers.

    They’re actually trying to have a discussion about the article!

    For some reason, they seem like the crazy ones, being so out of place with the norm.

  4. paulgude says:

    Starting around 500, it seems to be mostly people complaining about the confused people and trolls pretending to be the confused people.

    My takeaway is that the note in the article and the mocking in the comment thread maybe got through to some people.

    Remember, and this is true for most things. Once you’re willing to swallow your pride and admit you were wrong (or even change behavior without admitting anything, for some) you’re no longer part of the ridiculed group.

    Forging ahead.

  5. paulgude says:

    Most of the 500+ comments prove another point. There’s a backlog of people commenting to the folks that were complaining earlier, and the trolls are so abundant that there’s no way of telling if any “legitimate” complaints about the “facebook redesign” are coming in any more.

    Basically, once all of the people who were having problems “cross over” into the group of people who understand that isn’t Facebook, there’s a *need* for them, by the people who weren’t able to make fun of them at the beginning.

    In fact, one might see the trolls who are pretending to be the Facebook users as the clownfish, changing sex to accommodate a societal need. In this case, they’re “becoming” stupid on purpose, so the group can be ridiculed even when it is devoid of members.

  6. flamingbanjo says:

    The modern approach is to get both sides to try reach some kind of consensus. The people who believe that ReadWriteWeb is in fact a redesigned Facebook login page should be able to speak their piece and get their point of view heard, and the people who believe it isn’t should be prepared to answer their arguments in a respectful way so that a meaningful dialogue can take place, one that takes everybody’s perspectives into account without judging.

    It’s called “fairness.” Also “balance.”

  7. paulgude says:

    I think the emptying of the “This is Facebook” group through explanation and ridicule seems to have worked surprisingly well in this instance.

    I imagine it’s because there was no one with a vested interest drumming people up, saying that they should *demand* log them into Facebook as well as their comments section.

    If *that* would have happened, we would have seen running into all sorts of crazy dialogs.

    Luckily, that never happened. This is how things *should* work out, I think.

  8. flamingbanjo says:

    It seems to be a pretty good illustration of how well it works when people who have facts on their side refuse to make concessions to people who are demonstrably wrong. My point is more that in our broader societal debate that approach is often eschewed in favor of making nice with the stupids.

    Fortunately, the proprieters of ReadWriteWeb are not in the position of having their service put to a popular vote.

Comments are closed.