Casual comment on a photo posted by a friend on Facebook: "Hanging with the libs?"
TED talk found yesterday and slated to be used in class tomorrow: Eli Pariser talking about "filter bubbles," the algorithms some web sites use to show you more of the things you're looking at most often. You won't know those bubbles are in use, Pariser warns, and you can't adjust by telling the site you want to see more of other things.
A Pew Research Center article (found here: http://www.journalism.org/2014/10/21/political-polarization-media-habits/
) on what choices people make to find news.
A political campaign -- for the current member of the House of Representatives from my district -- that painted his opponent as an Evil Liberal because she came from a college town east of us. The approach must have worked with some voters, since they kept using those commercials.
Friends on Facebook who post comments like this: "If you're planning to vote for x, just unfriend me now." "If you think x is doing a good job, you should unfriend me." "If you ever vote for the x party, you should probably go ahead and unfriend me now."
I think I see a pattern here. And if I'm right, it's a pattern that's going to make it increasingly hard to find solutions to the problems we see as Americans -- unless you happen to believe that one end of the political spectrum has all the wisdom.
I don't. I'm one of those people who -- dare I admit it? -- thinks each side has the right answers for some of the problems. And I've found myself wistfully pulling on what I thought were my rose-colored glasses and wondering why it was easier to talk about political issues in the past.
But apparently those are not rose-colored glasses I'm wearing. Another Pew Research Center study notes that “'Ideological silos' are now common on both the left and right. People with down-the-line ideological positions – especially conservatives – are more likely than others to say that most of their close friends share their political views."
(My editorial note: I doubt they're correct about that. I suspect a lot of their close friends take the approach I've begun using -- a refusal to discuss political issues. If I never say anything, you'll never know which way I lean on any issue. And then you can decide whether you want to be friends on the whole package of Penshark, not just my political beliefs.)
That same study suggests that I am not part of the minority of Americans: "These sentiments are not shared by all – or even most – Americans. The majority do not have uniformly conservative or liberal views. Most do not see either party as a threat to the nation. And more believe their representatives in government should meet halfway to resolve contentious disputes rather than hold out for more of what they want."
Why don't you hear more from us? The Pew study says many of us in the middle have disengaged from politics. I still vote and pay attention, but I've lost count of how many times I've wondered why I bother.
And if anything, social media may be making that problem worse. (Obligatory disclaimer here: I love social media. I'm active on Facebook and Twitter and I teach about lots of social media. That doesn't change the opinion I'm about to give you.)
I don't mean just the "unfriend me now" crew. Facebook clearly tailors your news feed to give you more of the friends you click on most and less of the others. I've not seen anything confirming the same thing happens on other social media, but I'd bet on it. And I've heard stories of different people getting different results for the same search, so I suspect it's happening there as well. And then there's the ability to follow on social media only the news sites that agree with you.
So those who are convinced their side has all the wisdom can spend their time in those "ideological silos." Maybe the other side has a better idea in this case? They'll never -- or rarely -- hear that idea. Both sides can spend their time instead congratulating themselves on how wise they are.
We can keep moving in that direction. But that way lies more gridlock and more delay and more frustration. Or we can start trying to make change. Maybe that includes asking social media to stop giving us ever-larger doses of our own opinions. Maybe -- radical thought -- that includes trying to really listen at least occasionally to the views of someone who disagrees with us. Maybe we can figure out how to stop making "compromise" a dirty word.
And if none of that succeeds, perhaps the next time I hear someone on one end of the spectrum proclaiming "we're taking our country back," I will look innocently at them and ask when I get to take =my= country back.