(My writing will not often get into the who and what of politics. But sometimes the best example is in the political realm…which is the case of this post… READER BEWARE!)
I was part of a duo that addressed a group about the political process in the State of Oregon. As the audience was walked through the life of a bill in Oregon I started thinking about the process of argument, debate, and disagreement. Example is: a bill is proposed, heard in committee (maybe), argued over and changed (maybe), sent to the floor for vote and debate (maybe), if passed repeat the cycle on the other side of the capitol. In this example there are multiple points in which debate/argument/disagreement will happen. And I’ve just listed the public portions, this doesn’t list the caucus meetings, the lobbyists who support/oppose, and the elected official’s constituents.
The point I’m belaboring to make is that disagreement, in person, is helpful and important to good governance and life in general. And it is disagreement in person and face to face that makes change happen, not disagreement via email/social media/vlogs/text/etc.
When I first logged into Facebook and jumped ship from MySpace (Facebook says that was sometime in 2007ish…) I thought it was the coolest thing ever. How awesome to be able to be connected to my friends from college, work, and life and not have to see them every day? I truly cared about what was happening in their day. I actually wanted to know where they were and what they were doing or eating and I would have like to know in the moment. But mobile technology wasn’t there yet. Flip phones were still cool and it was just becoming easier to move an mp3 from your computer to your phone to make it a ring tone.
Fast forward ten years. I can’t stand Facebook. I still want to see my friends posts and enjoy their life with them vicariously. But I’m so tired of being given everyone’s opinion when I never asked for it in the first place and have no platform in which to equally give my opinion. I’m pretty sure I didn’t hit “Friend Request – And Full License to the Friend to Espouse Every Opinion They Have And Back It With Undocumented, or Under-Researched, Research That Only Proves Their Feeling And Provides No Tangible Facts.” That would be a huge button and I would not have clicked it.
“Never discuss religion or politics in business unless you don’t want to work in that business anymore.”
In case you want to call me a hypocrite right now let me concur that I am spouting my feelings here, but to the point that the website is www.nathanknottingham.org, and you had to click the link to read it, I can say whatever I want because I own the distribution method…I need to stop ranting // back to the point.
How many of you would go into a group of acquaintances and strangers, stand in the middle, and start loudly describing your opinions, beliefs, and feelings to the crowd. In polite company I propose the answer would be very close to zero. In fact we still adhere to the rule of business: “Never discuss religion or politics in business unless you don’t want to work in that business anymore.” I propose that we have become so sensitive to NOT upset people who are in the same room with us that we will remain silent on a topic we may feel strongly about because we would be afraid of hurting someones feelings, or afraid that we would be asked a tough question and made to look the fool.
Instead, and I am seeing it daily, it seems without thought people hop onto their favorite social media platform and digitally do just what I described above. Something about the lack of non-verbal communication involved in Social Media channels seems to give us all the assumed belief (I know I’m making a large assumptive statement here, it serves to make the point), or removal of self doubt that caused us to hold our tongue in the physical gathering, that the world has no choice but to take our opinion and like it and we don’t need to listen to them. To be clear we do enjoy freedom of speech, and I support that, but we should not confuse freedom of speech with true discourse and dialogue.
Social Media has eroded the ability for people to discuss topics, differing opinions, in person where you can’t help but to be confronted with a human beings belief and non-verbal cues that speak so loudly. I have no issue with anyone stating their belief and supporting it with any sort of document/video/soundbite as long as they would do the same in a personal group setting. The Unintended Consequence of Social Media was in building silos of thought that can be controlled by the user.
Thanks to algorithms and personal preferences dissenting opinions need not show up in the “News Feed” (which that title needs to change to “Opinion Feed”). Sean Blanda wrote about this silo effect in a great post “The ‘Other Side’ Is Not Dumb” (please read). Users can pick and choose who they listen too, how they find others in the same group, and quickly become mesmerized by the sheer number of people that feel JUST THE SAME WAY.
Social Media’s Unintended Consequence is in the fact that instead of fostering discussion and debate that will help change the world, users are able to build little social fortresses around their opinions and beliefs and deny that there are any other valid points. It is easier to use a phone to share a link, write a snide comment, or spout a statement and watch//ignore the responses than it is to discuss the same link or statement to a human being physically in front of you. And the step further, as we are watching it play out in both national politics and local Oregon politics, the practice of silo-ing information is now happening in reality. In areas that were once ground to healthy heated debate and discussion, you now can watch bullying tactics to gag the opposing opinion and silence all dissenters to the majority voice.
Maybe it really isn’t surprising after all that the Presidential candidates proclaim extreme statements day after day. It’s the only way to break out of the silos to reach the most people.
I reserve the right to add to the post…I feel like there could be more…to be continued?