of human political discussion.
In my lifetime, I’ve never before felt like the everyone is either a Conservative or a Liberal. I didn’t even think about their political thoughts. I just met them as people. Their political leanings didn’t enter into my judgement of their character. But over the last 10 years, I have evolved an unconscious bias of judging people based on conservative or liberal. ITS VERY DISTURBING.
The reason that I do this new character assessment is that for the last 10 years I have been breathing the ether of the internet on a daily basis. When I’m on Twitter or Tumblr or Reddit – politics is everywhere. Memes abound. And what is interesting is that these people who post all seem to agree with ME.
Because the internet serves us our portions with algorithms that assess what we like and then give us more of that, our politics become a defining character of our internet experience. Google, Twitter, Tumblr all know that I’m liberal. They feed me what I want to see.
Some of it I do to myself. I chose my followers in Twitter – my first social media experience based on some things I was avidly interested in at the time. Those things tend toward the liberal side of the coin – science and skepticism. Then I started to play Favstar on Twitter. I naturally followed the other people whose funny tweets I liked. I, of course, thought tweets that reinforced my own liberal bias were funnier. So I was choosing my own echo chamber. I started on tumblr by following all my twitter followers and so it went.
I’m keenly aware that I’m living in an internet bubble because I work in a conservative fish tank. There are 3 liberals and 47 conservatives where I work. And this reminds me daily that being a conservative is NOT a character flaw. Which is the message that is served to me daily in twitter and tumblr.
I’ve tried not to create my own echo chamber at WordPress. We will see if it works.
Here’s the thing. These echo chambers isolate our viewpoint. They reinforce it and coax it out toward the edges of extremism. Because there is nothing to temper it. To remind us that perfectly reasonable people have different views.
The isolation of a viewpoint is how they create a terrorist. They physically isolate them from seeing any other viewpoint and then keep hammering in the same ideas. And those ideas become the ONLY way. The only right thing. It makes an unnatural extremism seem normal and right.
On the internet, we don’t have to physically isolate ourselves to only see one view point. We only have to go to our favorite hangouts. And the algorithms and our natural tendency to choose people who agree with us will do the rest. Of course we all experience real life, so we aren’t in danger of being terrorists, but we ARE in danger of creating an unnatural dichotomy. Of a confirmation bias that is setting us up for failure.
I’ve read from credible sources that this extreme polarization has happened before in the US, and I suppose it’s happened elsewhere. But I can’t help seeing that uniqueness of our current lives on the internet is contributing.