While one could argue that hyperconnection among humans could be harmful if the information being spread is misinformation, it is important to recognize misinformation is only effective if people are already uninformed, gullible, or susceptible to bias. Instead of seeing society as having fallen into a post-truth era, we can look at what’s going on as illuminating a problem that was already present, but grew out of control. Whether you are on the Right or Left, you are likely well aware that there is fake news, biased news, and news designed to entertain, since that is what drives clicks and ratings. Even those who consume and spread fake news often know that what they are spreading is biased, or somewhat disingenuous. The problem will persist for some time, but at least our awareness of the problem has matured. Furthermore, the misinformation problem has catalyzed some very serious efforts to combat the spread of fake and biased news, such as watch-dog websites, and even AI programs, that are specifically designed to allow people to better judge the authenticity of a story or “fact.” The Trump era didn’t create the misinformation crisis, it exposed it. The potential existed long before, and now we are learning how to stomp out that potential.
What’s more, in the midterm elections, the voter turnout numbers reached new highs. More people are becoming politically active, and that can never be a bad thing in the long term. People are inspired to become agents of change, and are inspiring others to do the same. While hashtags might seem frivolous at this point, they actually are a novel and effective means of initiating widespread change. Targeted political discussion forums on popular boards like Reddit are more numerous than ever. These times may seem dark, but we are likely on the cusp of a major phase transition that leads to a more robust and functional political, social, and economic system. As complexity science and the phenomenon of emergence have shown us, new and improved forms of order cannot come into existence without some chaos. Take a deep breath and relax, because this windy and tumultuous path we are on ultimately leads to greater enlightenment.