Social media has caused deep divisions in our country. It is leading us down a dangerous path that might be impossible to reverse if we don’t get things turned around.
A great deal of research seems to back up this sentiment.
It was revealed last month that the rise of Twitter has led to an equal rise of political divisions. FiveThirtyEight, a reliable polling website, surveyed nearly 4,000 Twitter users - and the 4.8 million Tweets they produced - for a one-year span. FiveThirtyEight wrote that most of the accounts identified as either “mostly conservative” or “mostly liberal” in an article called “Political Twitter Is No Place for Moderates.”
“It turns out that American Twitter users who tweet about politics overwhelmingly come from the extremes of the political spectrum as well,” their report said.
That has been my experience.
I have occasionally made attempts to try to “talk” with people about politics over social media.
Those attempts have always been futile.
It is a path to nowhere.
This has been doubly true in our increasingly divided political climate, one the president of the United States fuels every day.
I think it’s time he - and we - just stopped.
Because political conversations off the web are much more enriching.
Even if you leave an exchange and disagree completely, it's hard not to leave on poor terms if you are both respectful, calm, mature, and sincere.
After the 2016 election, I, as a bit of a skeptical Donald Trump voter, had one such conversation with a Hillary Clinton voter. Politics wasn't the sole subject of our conversation; it just came up casually. Alot of people at the time would probably be stunned that either of us would be in the same area code.
It turns out we had a lot in common.
We agreed on several viewpoints on Mr. Trump as well as Mrs. Clinton. She understood why I voted for Trump - a strong disagreement with Clinton’s policy stances, as well as the direction the country would go under her leadership.
I asked why she voted for Clinton. Like me, she explained that she disagreed with Clinton on several policy matters, but voted for her because of her experience of working in politics. She questioned Trump's lack of a record and compared him to a doctor entering surgery with no medical education.
“At least she would know how to use the knives,” she said.
I understood this completely and agreed that was a serious part of my reservations about Trump, and why I certainly didn’t vote for him in the primary.
We both found our reasoning to be very plausible.
We both understood each other. There was mutual respect. I left with a better understanding of why people voted as they did and I think, hopefully, she did likewise.
Above all, we realized that we are both in the same boat - Americans, breathing he same oxygen and walking on the same ground.
I am convinced none of that would've happened over long diatribes on Facebook.
That's because when a person is sitting across the table from you, you see them in a completely different light - as a human being, not a username. They are real people with real concerns. They are your fellow countrymen and women. You see a sincerity and respect that can't be fully understood in a Tweet.
For that matter, solutions to our political problems are as complex as the problems themselves. They require more than 140 characters to wrap our brains around. They require critical thinking.
If we are to ever heal these wounds, I think it's time to log off.
That means less posting and more problem-solving.
That means replacing keyboards with coffee cups.
That means less Tweeting and more talking.