There’s an Australian MP who has been called out for sexual harassment. He blames it on his ADHD, which is very unfortunate. The Guardian quotes psychiatrist Dr Karen Williams, the founder of Doctors Against Violence Against Women, saying:
ADHD is … not a cause for remorselessness or other antisocial behaviour such as harassment. Medication for ADHD serves to improve focus and attention but it doesn’t change your ethics, it doesn’t change your levels of compassion or empathy. There is no drug for empathy.
But the really interesting thing here is that he runs over 30 online social media accounts, posting over 50,000 comments under the guise of community and news groups. How has he, a sitting Government minister, got time to do all this?? I can’t even keep up with my emails!
The thing is, this is not unusual. It seems that the overwhelming quantity of posts on user-generated media, whether Facebook, Reddit, or Wikipedia, are made by a tiny circle of people. Which begs the question, who are these people who are always online? What is it that drives them to such obsessive and weird behavior? When we read, we tend by default to assume that the writer is like us. But in the online world, that’s a questionable assumption.
Obsessive posters obscure their tracks by posting in different communities or under different names. But by sheer presence their words assume a prestige that is probably unwarranted. It turns out that by enabling “user generated content” everywhere we have handed the public square over to the kind of person who, well, likes to stand in a public square and yell at everyone.
There’s an old saying in tech-critical circles: there are only two types of people who refer to their community as “users”—drug dealers and tech companies. Perhaps the similarity is closer than we thought.