The Good Intentions Fallacy Is Making Diatribes The Rule On Social Media

The good intentions fallacy, also known as the righteousness fallacy, was coined by Milton Friedman and is the idea that one is automatically correct just because their intentions are pure. The problem with the good intentions fallacy is that, well, the pureness of intentions is of course subjective.

Every single day on social media presents a new opportunity for different parties to offer polar opinions on anything from serious topics like racial justice and gender equality to more light-hearted ones like sports, music, or what color a dress is. As with every argument, every party believes their view holds more weight and should hence be adopted by the rebutting party.

The problem with social media arguments becomes that, although trying to convert the rebutting party is common in all arguments, because of the filter bubble which is a side effect of the way social media algorithms operate, the arguing parties become so polarized that instead of each party trying to listen to reason, their main focus becomes trying to prove how very wrong the other party is instead of showing why they think they are right.

The filter bubble makes each party think that their stance is made with the purest intentions so anyone who is against it is treated as a villain who wants to see the whole world burn. Because they think their intentions are pure as a result of them being endorsed by the other people in their filter bubble, they want their view to be treated as the holy grail. This obviously won't sit well with the rebutting party whose filter bubble also has them thinking that their intentions are purest so what do you get? A lock horn scenario that results in endless diatribes which create even more polarity. because no party is willing to listen to reason

Like the great Miss Lauryn Hill once sang, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. If you think you have the best intentions, the next person who holds an opposite view to yours might also be of the view that their intentions are also the purest. This lock horn scenario can easily be resolved with a good dialogue but the way social media algorithms operate is that they do not make it easy even downright impossible to have sensible and productive dialogues.

Social media algorithms, by way of the filter bubble, enforce the confirmation bias and when you have technology that has been so widely adopted by humanity doing that, then you have a big problem in your hands. You get a society of people who do not believe in listening to logic. You get a society of people who, even when they know that their argument is flawed, would rather die than listen to reason. You get a society of people who are always at war with each other.

In its early days, social media seemed bound to create an environment where everyone, regardless of skin color, social status, or any characteristic could provide an opinion and support it as long they had an internet connection. This was a welcome development but because of the greed and sheer incompetence of social media companies by way of deploying polarizing algorithms along the way, it has turned into a hellhole of toxicity where everyone thinks that their intentions are holier than thou.


  1. Former UK prime minister Theresa May has written a book called The Abuse of Power that is currently being serialised. Critics are making the point that she committed her own abuses of power while in office, but in the book she doesn't own up to any such thing - because of course her intentions were pure and her actions selfless. For an educated person who made it to the top of the political tree to lack such basic self-awareness is an indictment of our political system.


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