This Is Why Social Media Is Bad for Political Ideology

Social media apps displayed in a folder on a cell phone
Prominent social media apps on an Apple iPhone (Photo by BBC)

The rise of social media has created a world where people across the globe can communicate quickly and efficiently. The increase in communication has indeed been very beneficial for society. However, social media has transformed into a platform that enables a surge in political polarization, especially within the younger generations.

Social Media is Dehumanizing

First off, hiding behind a username on a screen makes it easier to express far-fetched, radical ideas. Same goes on the other end, when contesting someone’s opinion there is a sense of security one feels behind a screen that allows for common morals and ethical communication to disappear. Anyone can post a radical opinion that if confronted in person, could lead to a civil discussion and resolution. However, when online, people will attack with unwarranted aggression that often does not allow for productive conversation.

"You know I'm right, and you can't change that." "Well the left is morally superior."
“The fall of civil discussion.” Political Cartoon by McKenna Sjoden

What happened to civil discussion?

When people involved in online political arguments act in such way as described above, their own opinions are rarely changed. Instead, their beliefs often become stronger and farther left or right, and the irritation they have for a single person may transfer to the larger whole they affiliate that person with. On many online social media platforms, Americans (especially young Americans) will describe their political opponents with dirty slang in an attempt to discredit them. Popular words conservatives use to describe the left include “snowflake,” and “libtard,” while liberals will often attack the right with terms like “deplorable,” and “fascist.” These terms are both demeaning and unproductive. It is doubtful that such degrading terms would be used in a one on one conversation offline. Dehumanization on social media makes it a bit easier to see people with opposing opinions as villains. Contrary to fellow citizens who simply disagree with you.

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Consequences

In order to have any type of functioning system, communication is essential. As the gap continues to grow between the two prominent ideologies, it becomes more difficult to pass legislation because representatives are there to please their constituents. If constituents will not engage with opposing views or even contemplate compromise, then why should their representatives? It is time to bring back civility, and engage with one another as equal. Until then, nothing productive will happen with our own intellectual growth, or within our legislature.

We must start listening, stop attacking, and begin working towards a singular goal of collaboration. Productive discourse is necessary if we are to prevent chaos; the last thing we need is an internal war.  

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