This article is written from a Democratic point of view, but is generally unbiased
The digital world has become essential in the functioning of society. As it connects people of culturally diverse backgrounds and intends to break down racial barriers, it also succeeds in dividing the partisan line even further.
In this week’s media focus, Facebook stood in front of the U.S. Congress, along with other tech giants, to combat the rise of white nationalism on their sites. There’s no denying the presence of social media and its role in online radicalization, but unfortunately, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Our hatred and discrimination goes beyond our Facebook timelines and Twitter feeds. Social exclusion and media bias have had a history in traditional media since the nineteenth century. Racial and cultural division have rapidly intensified and reached new heights while being institutionalized through generations.
The true role of mainstream media comes into question when we look further into the way we absorb information and change our perceptions in today’s political landscape. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting aims to “promote an educated and informed civil society by supporting high-quality engaging content and services delivered across multiple platforms” through public media.
We place emphasis on the word civil – relating to the general public, the greater good of the people, being well-rounded in courtesy and politeness toward others. How do you perceive civility?
At the crossroads of social media and politics comes a reflection of the 2016 Presidential Election. The roles that networking sites played in the national discourse of election season was crucial — do we recall the infamous Twitter exchange about student debt between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush? Education reform is the very core of our nation’s future and should be treated with high value. Yet, informally trolling on social media seemed to be the norm among most candidates.
From first announcing his 2016 campaign on Twitter to his tweets just this week regarding immigration laws, President Trump has set a precedent for future White House leaders as having the most argumentative online presence. His globalization of social media has created an online political sphere where users are continuously using the internet for partisan gain.
A recent study by online security service Comparitech surveyed more than 1,000 people who have at least one social media account on their political views — they found that 48% of people only interact with people on social media who generally share their views. This data shows the negativity brewing towards the opposing party as well as the growing rift between Democratic and Republican values on the internet.
Once again reflecting on civility, there’s an obvious lack of kindness in today’s online political landscape. When asked to distinguish political discussions on social media compared to before the 2016 election, one of the biggest changes voters noticed is the absence of respect. An overwhelming amount of users (58%) believe that political talk online is less respectful than it was before Donald Trump took his seat at the White House. Given his Republican-based presidency, it should come as no surprise that Democrats are now 38% more likely to post about politics on social media than in 2016 — does this open the door to a deeper conversation about political relationships?
As we continuously share ‘engaging’ political content in our own opinions across multiple platforms, it’s our purpose to give a voice to the voiceless, to empower the uninformed and promote unity. Or, are we unintentionally contributing to an already eminent cultural divide?