Transcript: Jonathan Haidt On Social Media’s Havoc
The champion for heterodoxy takes on Twitter and Facebook.
Haidt is a social psychologist and Professor of Ethical Leadership at the NYU Stern School of Business, and he co-founded Heterodox Academy. His latest book is The Coddling of the American Mind, but our discussion centered on his big piece for The Atlantic, “Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid,” a history of social media.
The episode originally aired on April 15, 2022, and you can listen to it here. Some money quotes from Haidt:
"I hope that everybody will lower their expectations for human nature and human beings. We are living way above our design constraints.”
“Something that really puzzled me from 2015 on is how many of the campus protests … are not because someone expressed an idea. It's because someone used a word.”
“People accuse me of both sides-ism. And I plead absolutely guilty. I will always look at both sides before I come to an opinion, and usually each side is right about something.”
Andrew: Hi there! Welcome to another Dishcast. We're excited, once again, to have another amazing guest. We've had a real run of them and we're going to continue. Next week we have Francis Fukuyama, which is something I've looked forward to a very long time. I want to really thrash through some questions with him, some big questions, which we're answering now.
I am hyped up today. I'm fresh from a colonoscopy yesterday. Sully #TMI. And that was lovely, except the prep is just the most disgusting thing on earth. You have to drink this poison — probably some of you have had such a thing happen to you. Anyway, it was all fine. I didn't do the prep right, and I had to do it again and went back later in the day.
Anyway! We have today the author of an important new essay that's out in The Atlantic, Jonathan Haidt, someone I've admired and followed for quite a while now. He's a social psychologist and Professor of Ethical Leadership at the NYU Stern School Of Business. His last book was The Coddling Of The American Mind: How Good Intentions And Bad Ideas Are Setting Up A Generation For Failure. And he just published a big Atlantic piece, as I said, “Why The Past 10 Years Of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid,” a history of social media.
Jon, lovely to have you. Thanks for coming on to talk about it.
Jonathan: How wonderful to be here with you, Andrew.
Andrew: So tell me — because I start off with this question sometimes when I don't forget — and that is, tell me where you're from. Where did you grow up? What did your parents do? What was your upbringing like?
Jonathan: I've heard you ask this question of previous guests, and I thought about what I could say. I think the only thing I can say that's at all revealing is that I'm just totally normal, stereotypical Jewish American, New York, liberal, grandparents from the old country, parents assimilated. Jewish atheist from two years after my bar mitzvah. Went to Yale, was a liberal, ran a handgun control group. Totally, totally predictable, stereotypical.
Andrew: Like everyone I've ever worked with.