Social media has changed the way people participate in politics, and the way politicians participate as well. People are more likely to express their political views, not just to their friends and families, but also to their Facebook “friends” and all their “followers” — whether they know these people or not.
This may seem like a good thing, that as a society we’re becoming more open about expressing political opinions and more willing to start political conservations. This is a good thing, the fact that voting percentages remain less than 50% is deeply disturbing to me, so having people thinking politically is a step in the right direction to having a more politically involved population. However, the problem with politics seeming to be a purely social media based form of communication is that we tend to follow and friend people with similar views to our own. We create our own little bubbles where every political post we make is welcomed and agreed with, people who don’t completely agree with the opinions of Hillary Clinton are “racist bigoted mongrels”, and if you dare to disagree, you’ll probably be blocked as a “hater”.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m guilty of this. At 1am on November 9th, 2016, I was posting and liking anti-trump posts, commenting on how “idiotic America was” — my particular post was a pretentious comment relating Trump to Plato’s description of a tyrant, I’ve become that annoying university student — and I felt good about myself, all of my “friends” agreed with me, and my opinion felt validated.
In a paper by Eric M. Feldman called “Perspectives in AE — The influence of social media on adult learners’ knowledge construction and democratic participation”, he discusses adult learners (i.e all of us) are more likely to surround themselves with like-minded individuals, and how opposing views tend to polarize views even further. This is what’s dangerous about social media and politics, we are starting a political conversation, but we’re not being democratic about it. We’re unwilling to listen to opposing views, and we don’t understand every side.
I feel as members of a democracy, it’s our duty to be open to every side, listen and pay attention to all the facts before making an opinion and tweeting about it. It’s also a good idea to follow people with opinions other than our own, it’s healthy to have people disagree with you, and learning to hear someone say “no”, and not freak out, is a part of life.
Feldman, E.M. (2015). Perspectives in AE — The influence of social media on adult learners’ knowledge construction and democratic participation. New Horizons in Adult Education & Human Resource Development, 24(4), 59-65. content.ebscohost.com/ContentServer.asp