Phillips said she was exhausted and distressed, and that she felt overwhelmed by the nature of her work. She described a “soul sucking” feeling stemming in part from an ethical conundrum tied to researching the ills of online extremism and amplification.
Other researchers in the field describe similar experiences. Feelings of helplessness and symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder—like anxiety, guilt, and anhedonia—are on the rise, they said, as warnings go unheeded and their hopes for constructive change are dashed time and time again.
“The problem with not knowing if something is serious or satirical is that [it] renders any intervention efforts moot out of the gate,” says Phillips. “That's what makes the work feel sometimes so futile, because we don't even know exactly what we're up against and we don't even know what we would do to try to fix it.”
The solution offered by the dense retard? More emotion, of course.
“We need to think more holistically and more humanely about how we get folks to think about how they fit amongst other people,” Phillips says. “It is sort of a Copernican revolution—I am not the center of Facebook; there are other people—and it seems small, [but] … most people can understand that, if you frame it to them in the right way. And that could change how you interact with the people around you in your world more broadly.”