This old blog post seems quite accurate, even prescient. I’m writing this mostly so that I have an easy link back to it.
The argument claims that the whole online medium is aiming at a basic emotional response. The ur-interaction online is the equivalent of thumbs up or thumbs down. This makes people feel powerful, as if they deserve to be consulted about the value of whatever it is they’re looking at, or that everyone else is entitled to their opinion of how things might have been done differently.
But it’s remarkable, from a philosophical perspective, how nicely this analysis fits with expressivist theories of value. As I say, I am not convinced that expressivism is the correct theory of value, but it sure looks like you get something like it when you boil down a lot of our social life.
Perhaps the blog post suggests one of the reasons I dislike expressivism (though not a reason to disagree with it). The broad expressivist program that encourages quasi-emotional votes on everything valuable makes it too easy to render an opinion. And so people have opinions about everything, even things that they really have no business opining on.