Social Media Is Making People Dumber, Fears Elliott's Paul Singer

Tyler Durden's picture

Excerpted from Elliott Management's latest letter to investors,


Some technology represents unquestioned progress, despite causing real challenges to the employment prospects of citizens who are made redundant. For example, recent advances in science and medicine have merely scratched the surface in terms of enhancing our ability to find cures for diseases in an increasingly focused way at sharply diminished cost. Also, the technology of moving people and goods in vehicles and organizing their movement on roads contains tremendous opportunities for cost and energy efficiencies, as do the areas of resource extraction, the development of alternative energy and the efficiency of food production. These are just a few obvious and impactful areas in which technological progress has lots of headroom for human betterment.

On the other hand, some technological progress is not really progress at all. Innovations in the technology of communications, including social media, provide increasingly powerful and robust platforms to disseminate information. Unfortunately, these same increasingly powerful and robust platforms are also used to spread information that is untrue, and to package information in tiny bits of faux-knowledge that (because of their sheer volume) leave little room for neither more comprehensive reading nor discussion and contemplation. This fact reinforces our view that young people need to be taught the basics as early as possible – of history, political science, philosophy and civilization. In the absence of that grounding, all of these Twitter and Facebook bits alight on a population that lacks the tools to sort or analyze what they are reading while scrunched over their Androids. (Interesting word, Android; maybe in a thinly-veiled joke, it is meant to describe the hooked users and not the device...)

The technology of communications also democratizes news and opinion. Although this development may seem positive at first blush, it also has some powerful negative aspects. Whatever one thinks about the “mainstream” media’s biases, there is at least a set of standards and professional codes of conduct that are more or less followed by established media outlets. Writers are edited, and editors seek to protect franchises against irresponsible communications. Bloggers, by contrast, do not really have to adhere to any such constraints, and making them hew to any standards of professional responsibility is difficult at best. The “blogosphere” effectively makes the dissemination of news and opinion a kind of dense windy fog.

[We assume Singer does not consider Zero Hedge among the 'dense windy fog' of blogs given its readership rivals most mainstream media, but rather the meme-du-jour vox populi]

This overabundance of information and opinion is not a positive development in our view (although we are certainly not suggesting it be curtailed or controlled by governments). Ask yourself the following set of questions: Do people seem better informed today in the developed world? Smarter? Is the discourse more sophisticated? The answer is a resounding “no” to all those questions. Modern communication modalities play a role in this sad fact, and so does modern education, particularly higher education, which in too many cases has eschewed foundational course materials in favor of self-indulgent or ideological navel-gazing.

*  *  *
One wonders whether social media (and perhaps the legalization of pot) is Huxley's Soma for the 21st Century... a nation of compliant robots numb to original thought.

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Cattender's picture

It's a Recovery Bitches!!!!!!! < how's that for Dumb?

Publicus's picture

Don't worry, Ebola will take care of them.

SoberOne's picture

Government dissenters are silenced, kittens praised.

SoberOne's picture

Give me pot or give me... SQUIRREL!

Herd Redirection Committee's picture

We are taught what to think, not how to think.

Thats why you remember 'history' as being a boring class, and on the tests, they tested your knowledge of dates (memorization).


Escrava Isaura's picture

Herd Redirectio...,

How to think would go against the indoctrination.

The Alarmist's picture

Social media is like the Army 2.0, allowing the folks to be all that they can be.

Say What Again's picture

I was on a tropical beach a few weeks ago.  I'm not going to say where, but it was as close to paradise as I can imagine one can find on earth.  One of the things that really struck me was the number of people that spent a majority of their time peering into a little 4 x 2 inch screen, rather than look out at the beauty that was in front of them.  I kind of felt sorry for those people. 

If I can suspend looking at charts and ZH for a week, why can't they stop looking at facebook, twitter, and instagram?

Never mind

gh0atrider's picture

Social Mediers made fonestar.  Made gh0atrider.

Who made who?  Questions for you to ask biggly.

Lin S's picture

I wish you'd disclose which tropical island it was, as I have a deep longing for a vacation away from the world in just such a place...

gh0atrider's picture



fonestar is fonestar. 

fonestar is banned.

gh0atrider is fonestar.

Say What Again's picture

what did you do to cause your excommunication?

and who is biggly?

ugmug's picture

Stupidity is an autoimmune response to intelligence. There is no vaccine....

edotabin's picture

It also reinforces the thought that you had to be stupid to begin with to think that social media was the best thing since sliced bread. You had/have to be a complete moron not to realize that 95% + of the content is totally moronic. Now the stupid are getting stupider?  Great! Way to go ! Woooohoooo!

People operate on the following levels:

1. Instinct

2. Feeling

3 Logic and clear thought

4 Eventually #3 turns into what appears to be cynicism

Social media operates on level 2. To many, it feels good to spout off about absolutely meaningless things and get a "like" It is a form of affirmation/validation.

Now, I will sit here and secretly hope you up vote me and my great comment.



Dick Buttkiss's picture

"We are taught what to think, not how to think."


Not education but indoctrination.

Which is the system that has been developiong since the Pledge of Allegiance wormed its way into the classroom in the aftermath of the War for a Unitary and Indivisible State:

Can it be any wonder, then, that it has reduced the population to dumbed-down, docile, and dependent wage slaves, debt serfs, and welfare beggars who, in their stultified ignorance, return to the voting booth like dogs to their vomit?

America is dead.  And it will not return until Rome on the Potomac is.


Freewheelin Franklin's picture
"That erroneous assumption is to the effect that the aim of public education is to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence, and so make them fit to discharge the duties of citizenship in an enlightened and independent manner. Nothing could be further from the truth.
"The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all, it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States, whatever the pretensions of politicians, pedagogues and other such mountebanks, and that is its aim everywhere else."
--H L. Mencken
Totentänzerlied's picture

No, everyone is taught, explicitly and actively by pedagogy (as in multiplication tables) else passively by observation/imitation (as in language acquisition [especially in pre-literate communities]):

-How to think (and how not to think)

-What to think (and what not to think)

-What to think about (and what not to think about)

It's been as a fundamental and basic component of human development and cultural reproduction for ... about a million years (since anatomically and cognitively modern Homo sapiens).

In short, you're taught to think how everyone else thinks (for example, what we mean when we say that someone's thinking "makes sense" or "is rational" or "is logical" or "is right", etc.), what everyone else thinks (beliefs, attitudes, opinions, preferences), and about what everyone else thinks about (subjects, interests, topics, ideas), to the greatest degree possible within a given community (the range is pretty narrow, historically).

Believe it or not, people really are taught some critical thinking and analysis skills, things that were unimaginable in the pedagogy of a century ago. But it's all within the boundaries of what's socially acceptable, which is not much at all. The fact that this is a very recent and unevenly applied development should show just how irrelevant it is to the human condition thus far. Serfs simply do not need, and should not have - if stability of the social order is not something being actively attacked - most thoughts and thinking "skills". Medievals who could deploy (Platonic and) Aristotelian logic to produce a proof of what they had already been told to believe and assumed to be true were considered the most educated men in the world - and they were.

None of what the article quotes even begins to attack all of the issues at play in contemporary education let alone contemporary childrearing in general. The safest conclusion is that a nation is a nation of idiots and imbeciles - within its own historical context - because it chooses to be so. All that's changed is the volume of data, information, and knowledge, and the ease of its accessibility. If knowledge of economics, for example, is not prioritized socially, it should surprise no one that most will never seek or get such knowledge. Even if the monetary (exchange value) cost of a book is essentially 0, there is still opportunity cost, among other factors.

Which kinds of information, knowledge, ideologies, and ideas are popular and promoted, is the real issue. Anything you didn't need to think or think about in order to get your job, for example, would make a good example of a very large set of things that you are, statistically, unlikely to ever think/think about.

Abitdodgie's picture

Are people becoming stupid , I don't know let's ask an IPhone zombie, they cannot anwser , what they don't have an APP for that.

junction's picture

How much should someone value the advice of Paul Singer, who single-handedly is driving Argentina to default on its government bonds?  Singer the gambler who doesn't know when to fold them.  Singer's reputation could take a real slamming if Argentina somehow finds a way out of its current default mess.  Meanwhile, Singer, whose mindset is like a car repo guy, is tunnel-visioned in trying to get the max for his vulture fund.  All or nothing.  Singer is going to make some powerful enemies if and when Argentina defaults in 24 hours or so.  Singer better throw away any nail guns he owns.

Totentänzerlied's picture

"How much should someone value the advice of Paul Singer, who single-handedly is driving Argentina to default on its government bonds?"

Blaming a hedge fund for literally over a century of horrendous political, economic, and social mismanagement of the entire country on the part of the entirety of all of Argentine society at every level, on a hedge fund who bought their debt a few years ago?

Everytime I'm afraid I've seen everything, ZH's sockpuppets continue not to disappoint me.

williambanzai7's picture

YouTube has announced a formal investigation of the MH17 incident. The investigation will be shown on YouTube. Do not try to contact YouTube concerning the investigation.

aVileRat's picture

I always wondered what would become our generation's Capone Vault. Now I know.

And yes, Paul is right: social media is great for chatting, but so was MSNM, and Bloomberg chat. Neither is any more revolutionary than a usenet/darknet chatroom. Lets see what LINKD does.


Abitdodgie's picture

In the 80s we had party phone 1900 get laid, that was social media.


MarkD's picture

Social Media is making it easier for those in control.

Herd Redirection Committee's picture

Yep, because they can control content.  "All wars are bankers wars" is banned on Facebook!

Abitdodgie's picture

Who the fuck still goes on Facebook (unless yor 12).

A Nanny Moose's picture

People were already dumb. Social media just allows idiots to express just how stupid they are, to the rest of the world.

EDIT: The Revolution will not be tweeted.

SmackDaddy's picture

i dont have a problem with dumb people twittering shit all over the place.  sometimes it's nice to have written evidence of someones stupidity.   the things that really fucks with my head, though, is how it has become basically an official medium of communication for governments and media outlets....

SmackDaddy's picture

louis ck:

ill paraphrase- most people's phones are smarter than them

trader1's picture

"...young people need to be taught the basics as early as possible – of history, political science, philosophy and civilization."


interesting how he leaves out economics.  

obviously, singer knows it's all bullshit.

Escrava Isaura's picture


Unfortunately, during the 5 stages collapses, none will matter.

fonzannoon's picture

If people were not so dumb maybe he would be hanging from a lamp post.

what&#039;s that smell's picture

The aim of Newspeak is to remove all shades of meaning from language, leaving simple concepts that reinforce the total dominance of the State. 

Twitter is an online social networking and microblogging service that enables users to send and read short 140-character text messages, called "tweets".

ebworthen's picture

WTF dey sayin'?  YOLO!  LOL.  BFF, KK?  BTW - I eight brockoly 4 lunch n' yogert ass desert.

Bernoulli's picture

100% agree

First step: Throw away your smartphone.

Second step: Get off Twitter, FB, Linkedin and other "social" sites.


You officially have your life back!

kurzdump's picture

"Brain damage is always permanent"

The Alarmist's picture

Dain Bramage, because the mind is a terrible thing.

Say What Again's picture

The only place left to "chat" will be ZH.  Are you leaving this site as well?

you can&#039;t fix stupid's picture

tl;dr..  only read 140 chars or less

Dewey Cheatum Howe's picture

This overabundance of information and opinion is not a positive development in our view (although we are certainly not suggesting it be curtailed or controlled by governments).


You could make the same case for news media like MSNBC and Fox news based on that criteria and they have nothing to do with social media. Maybe it isn't the medium but the presentation aka the script being followed regardless of the medium. 

SaudiMail's picture

Whatever one thinks about the “mainstream” media’s biases, there is at least a set of standards and professional codes of conduct that are more or less followed by established media outlets.


Bulls**t, how many times has the mainstream media been caught out lying to the public.  


MSM has no integrity left, people don't trust it because it has no standards of honest reporting or professional code of conduct when it comes to reporting the truth.

Roanman's picture

Strikes me that it's the Ivy League that's making people dumb.

Duffy Duck's picture

It's the clever promulgation of an increasingly ignorant, controlled "hive mind."

q99x2's picture

Aldous Huxley's grandfather Thomas Henry Huxley's epitaph

Be not afraid, ye waiting hearts that weep

For still he giveth His beloved sleep.

And if an endless sleep He wills it best. M'Fers.