When you start learning a new topic or dive into something, you learn things about it that you did not know or even consider before. As I begin to work on the social media aspect of my business, I am learning about what makes it work. Social media has its world with its psychology; unfortunately, that world greatly influences ours. As you investigate, we discover that social media significantly impacts cultural polarization.
More than any other force in history, it has increased tribalism and sidedness. If you are on the left, it reveals a more distant side and allows people to trend in that direction. If you are on the right, it opens echo chambers for that side, and the divide widens. Some people show you why you should be even more afraid of a group or a thing if you are afraid of it. There is no calming force or the voice of reason on social media. Many people are unaware of the enormous number of fake accounts and bots that exist solely to cause trouble.
Social media is now being used to spread controversial ideas and policies. It is being used as a focus group to determine how far a segment of society will go. A fringe idea is proposed and circulated to see how many people comment on and agree. This allows groups to see what people are prepared for and anticipate how people will react to any action taken. This is not just a political tool; it's also used to sell us things, lobby, and groups to spread hatred and violence.
I understand the irony of using social media to condemn social media and tell you to take a breather, but that is exactly what I intend to do. If you or your children spend a lot of time online, you should get out into groups of real people as often as possible. Meet your neighbors, attend a party, see your friends, and engage in genuine conversation.
Social media can be a great way to stay in touch with friends, but it can also divide groups of people who would not normally be so angry or divided. The polarization of society is natural and ebbs and flows, but social media will soon bring this issue to a head. So, whatever social media tells you, it isn't all bad or all good.
Instead of remaining in echo chambers and turning against one another, let us make it a point to come together and find common ground with those who think differently.
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Dr. Matt Chalmers
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