A social platform that was designed to bring people together has really shown to do the opposite. I’m not blaming Facebook, since we really have ourselves to blame, but the platform’s algorithm, coupled with our tendencies as humans, is tearing us apart as a society. The good thing is that there is something you can do about it. Allow me to explain…
This election has brought out some of the worst things in people, and this ugly side of our society is most prevalent across social media; Facebook, in particular. Here’s my issue with the way we’re using it: stop unfriending and unfollowing people who don’t share your viewpoints. It is the most ignorant thing you can do. You can choose to ignore people if you’d like, but to cut people out over who they side with in one of the most ridiculous elections in our nation’s history is just plain silly. Do you really want to put yourself in a bubble with only like-minded people and stories that selectively cover a portion of the biased news?
Here’s why this is a problem: Facebook’s algorithm works so that they show you more of the “things” you engage with (click on, like, react to, comment on, read, etc), and less of the things you don’t engage with. This is how they make money. More clicks and impressions, more ad revenue. If they had it their way, you’d be clicking on everything, so naturally they show you more of the content you’re inclined to click on. This is why your newsfeed usually shows the same people and the same themes. Now, here’s where it becomes a problem: if you are one to unfriend and unfollow people who you disagree with, somewhere down the line your entire newsfeed will be slanted in one direction and completely one-sided, leaving you in a very dangerous spot. Do you really want to be oblivious to everything outside of your perspective? Isn’t that how people become “out of touch” and “insensitive”, perhaps even ignorant? Hypothetically, doesn’t this lead to Groupthink, which has dangerous consequences and ultimately stunts growth and evolution?
I’ll admit, I learned more in college from activities, jobs, and sports than I did from my classes. However, one of the most valuable lessons I learned came from my Intro to Philosophy course, freshman year. The teacher, Professor Temkin, was a true genius, and he made the class very enjoyable. I actually looked forward to his class, which is something that I can’t say about many of my classes. One of the first assignments we were tasked with gave me something that I’ve carried with me throughout my life- the ability to see both sides of an issue. We had to pick which side of a controversial topic (think abortion, capital punishment, assisted suicide, etc.) we agreed with, and then write an entire argument AGAINST that stance. For people who took the assignment seriously, it was a true learning experience. It forced you to really get out of your own head, abandon your comfortable mindset and dig into a different opinion. I’ll be honest and tell you that I did not change my opinion on the topic I chose, but I absolutely gained a deeper understanding of the other side, and it allowed me to have more empathy with that opposite stance. I use this technique every single day because it really helps me to think things through and understand how I really feel. As a society, we are all so busy and distracted that we never really put the in time and effort required to deeply think things through. We think we know where we stand, and we proceed forward with that idea in our head as a constant, regardless of how well we evaluated it in our own mind. Things change, situations change, people change, and times change. It’s important to check in on yourself from time to time to really make sure you’re evaluating things clearly. Most things in life don’t last forever, and as we age and grow, sometimes those viewpoints change, too.
Back to my point, we should all want to grow, improve and EVOLVE. Not just as individuals, but as a human race. The scary thing is that the majority of people in our society get their information and “news” from their social media newsfeed. They take it, as is, and believe what they see and hear without doing any research on their own. We are a society that gets its news from MEMES. How terrifying is that? How polarizing is that? How basic and primitive is that? Are we going back to cave drawings as a method of communication? The result is a society that is uninformed, unaware, misguided, ignorant, and ultimately divided. All because we choose to surround ourselves with the like-minded, and choose to block out anyone “different”. Abraham Lincoln said “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”, and right now, that is where we are heading.
If you took the time to read this lengthy post, I encourage you to expand your horizons. Follow a variety of people and pages, even if you don’t agree with them. Get news from multiple sources. Read opinion pieces that are directly against yours so that you get a better understanding of the other side. Investigate and research more. Hear others out. Have respectful debates and discussions without making it personal. When it comes to the election, remember that we are ALL on the same side and we are all Americans! It’s okay that people see things differently; that’s what makes our country great. That’s how successful ideas are born and cultivated and grown. Above all, stop cutting out friends and family members who disagree with you. Life is too short and it’s a huge mistake. Years down the line, if someone asks you what happened to that friendship you had, are you going to be proud to say it ended over a political argument on Facebook? Sounds pretty silly to me. Those people you’re cutting out probably care about you a lot more than our candidates do, so be good to each other. Be respectful. Be the change you want to see in the world… it’s a pretty amazing concept.