We Are Such a Divided Nation – Thanks Facebook

It wasn’t too long ago that we could have an election or State of the Union address without knowing the political passions of our Facebook contacts. Back in the (good old) day, people largely kept their political preferences to themselves and their community of friends. Not anymore.

Hear Ye, Hear Ye…

Nowadays people opine on their political beliefs in open forum. And these beliefs are becoming more and more polarizing. They are not standing on a street corner shouting it out. No, they are safely behind an electronic device. Why are we comfortable putting something online, but we don’t shout it from a corner? Same reason why bullying is easy to do online; you don’t have to listen to any contradictory opinions. You don’t have to face someone who may honestly disagree with you. You don’t see how much your statement may have hurt the person on the other side.

It is so easy to blast your opinion, share a meme or otherwise fulfill your “civic duty” to appease those that believe as you do, while offending those that have other ideas. Today, the person that shouts loudest gets heard. The one with the most shocking statement gets the likes and shares. That perverse feedback loop ensures that beliefs get even more passionate and we become more divided.

It’s Not Facebook’s Fault

Let’s be honest, this isn’t Facebook’s fault. It has some very endearing qualities. One of the greatest is allowing people around the globe to come together, communicate and share. At the heart, it’s a social platform to connect. Yet many people today are using it to create deep divides, even breaking up those that have been close.

It’s not just politics. I have unfriended people due to political and religious statements – not because I have disagreed with their viewpoint (some of them are from my own faith or political views). I unfriended them because I don’t think it’s a wise use of a social platform. We all have different beliefs and viewpoints. One thing is for sure – whenever we post something, there will be a cohort of viewers that will disagree with it. And some may be hurt by it.

Having a Real Discussion

A significant downside to blasting strong opinions is that it prevents any real discussion from taking place. We have no interest in hearing the other side. Sure we will listen, with a very critical ear, and likely conclude that the other side really is the devil. You can thank the confirmation bias for that.

Just about everyone recognizes how divided we are, and most people would prefer that wasn’t the case. Yet real change never starts at the top. It surely is not going to be exemplified by our political parties/leaders. Real change happens from the ground up. That means me and you.

It starts with a self-critical view of what we share and what we do. Maybe it begins with a conversation with a trusted friends that has different beliefs/views, and we try to understand where they are coming from. If your experience is anything like mine has been, you will find that we have a lot in common with the “other side”. And that is what brings us together, despite our differences.