I came across Harris’ Law due to Jason Calacanis. Jason Calacanis has touched on the issue of overconnectivity in a recent editon of his email newsletter. It dealt with more certainty about the adverse social effects that connectivity brings which I first heard raised by Eric Benhamou of 3Com when he spoke about a decade ago in a keynote at Networld+InterOp in Paris.
Key to the mail was a concept that Calacanis called Harris’ Law (after his friend Josh Harris):
At some point, all humanity in an online community is lost, and the goal becomes to inflict as much psychological suffering as possible on another person.
That sounds excessively harsh in most circumstances, since most social networks mirror life and society. Yes 4Chan and 8Chan can have lots of repulsive content on them. This is less about inflicting pain but more about the kind camaraderie that disgusting jokes brought in the school yard. Yes there are too many incidents involving bullying or hate speech on online communities, but it only makes up part of the content on these communities.
Political groups aren’t motivated by ‘inflicting damage on the opponents, but by their concerns of things going on around them’. Their tribal ‘wars’ are reinforcing the community and manifesting those concerns rather than being purely about inflicting suffering.
Even communities like Anonymous that seem to be full of pranking rally around some moral causes such as opposing Scientology or the Iranian government’s oppression of protestors.
I wanted to end this post on a timely reminder which I have taken from Hugh MacLeod of Gaping Void fame’s twitter feed:
“People matter, Objects don’t”. That’s all you need to know about social media.
Harris’ Law is also a good reminder to think about mental resilience and good hygiene practices with regards online interactions.