How Facebook’s Use of Psychology Inspired Civil Strife

Kent Dahlgren
2 min readJan 8, 2021


Contention: the current strife which has led our country to the threshold of civil war can be traced to engineering decisions on the part of platforms such as Facebook with aspirations to deliver more profitable and predictable advertising revenues.

In pursuit of algorithms (“AI”) designed to inspire its user base to become more receptive to targeted advertising, Facebook weaponized psychology in such a way that the platform’s users are now more prone to acts of impetuousness and violence, including a desire to pursue acts of violence.

Facebook aspires to create a loyal user base that can be relied upon to click and act upon an ad without thinking too much about it.

To do so, the user base must be subjected to certain conditioning, or as Ruth refers to as “transacting transformation.”

In Ruth’s intended context of “transacting transformation,” the outcome of a series of transactions (or interactions) would be a person or a community thats transformed into something healthier and improved.

However, the same schema can be perverted in the name of profits.

It’s just as possible to construct a series of interactions (transactions) which result in a negative transformation of both an individual and a community.

In this instance: the negative ‘ratcheting” in the “emotion to action” cycle, as illustrated.

Indeed, I believe this is precisely what Facebook has done, in support of its desire to create more predictable advertising algorithms.

This negative “ratcheting” between emotions and reactions creates a constant feed of cortizol, which damages the brain in many ways, including a “functional atrophy” of the frontal cortex, thus resulting in a re-wiring of the brain, so to speak, creating a population more biased towards violence.

“Chronic high cortisol causes functional atrophy of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA), the hippocampus, the amygdala, and the frontal lobe in the brain.”

In the positive and therapeutic application of CBT (cognitive behavior therapy), the patient is guided through a series of interactions (transactions) designed to rewrite how they navigate certain triggering scenarios.

The more frequently a person follows this new path, the more rapidly their prefrontal cortex thickens, resulting in a transformation: improvements in anxiety, stress, PTS symptoms, etc.

In this manner, a person can “transact transformation” in a positive manner.

The inverse is true:

By embracing a reward mechanism that biases people towards interactions that are more fraught with drama, trauma, and conflict, the person floods their brain with cortisol, thinning the frontal cortex.

This results in more loyal and predictable customers, and a more violent user base, as evidenced in current affairs.



Kent Dahlgren

Product management fix-it guy. World-famous people skills. Extremely small hands. (edit) marketing lady says I’m also supposed to say “CEO of software company”