ThoughtStorms Wiki

Exposure to opposing views on social media can increase political polarization http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2018/08/27/1804840115

Research on "intolerance" of opposing political positions : https://crawford.pages.tcnj.edu/files/2011/12/Brandt-Reyna-Chamber-Crawford-Wetherell-CDPS.pdf

See also :

Quora Answer : How long do you think the polarisation in British politics will last?

Jul 26, 2019

Some people think that the polarization is a function of Brexit.

This is demonstrably untrue, because there's increasing polarization around the world, even in countries that have nothing to do with Brexit.

Where I live in Brazil we've had vicious polarization in the last few years. In Myanmar the Rohingya are being genocided due to out-of-control polarization.

Polarization is plausibly connected to the social tensions in the West due to its declining wealth and power relative to the rise of Asia. And to the increasing economic inequality and the rising precarity of work due to automation and rapidly changing patterns in the economy.

And while I'm easily persuaded that that certainly adds energy to it, I think, beyond economics, we have to admit that something else, something cultural is going on. And that "something cultural" is the rise of the internet and social media.

Social media has pushed us up close to each other in a way which is completely unfamiliar and uncomfortable for us. We've always been interacting, in one dimension or another, with neighbours and family members and colleagues who have seen the world differently to us, held different values to us, etc. But most of the time we weren't aware of it. And it didn't bother us. We all learned to curb what we said on the street and in public places. And got along.

But then we suddenly decided to use social media to make hard connections with all those people, in a space where they didn't feel obliged to hold back their views, and that allowed us to see exactly what they were thinking and how they were feeling. We got a sudden, horrible glimpse of each others' prejudices, and disgruntlements and anger and snark and snobbery and stupidity.

And we were horrified.

Life is now like that drunken argument in the pub with your ex-school mate you haven't seen for 3 years, and who has now become a total arsehole. But in the old days after the row, you'd probably have another 3 years to cool off and it would be all peace and love next time you caught up. Except now, it's 24/7. In your pocket. The wanker is winding you up, spouting bollocks on Facebook or Instagram every fucking day! You can't get away from him. And however much you shout at him, and however much evidence you post at him, he just becomes more entrenched in his position.

At this point, it's not clear where this will go.

One of three ways.

We all end up in the Rohingya or Rwanda scenario, drinking a firehose of fake news and conspiracy theories about each other until the machetes come out.

We get used to seeing a bunch of nonsense on our social media feeds and become immune. We just end up desensitized to this hyperstimulation and eventually it has little further effect on us. "Ah, that's just the internet", we think to ourselves.

We realize how bad this is and start switching off our social media and living in happy ignorance of each others' mental flaws.

I think everyone should read the Toxoplasma Of Rage, which from a few years ago now. So far back we're already forgetting some of the things it references. And in some ways it still represents an age of innocence. But it's a very good analysis of the wave of polarization that was coming to us.

If, as I think, polarization and our broken political system is not because of Brexit. But rather Brexit is just our local flavour / symptom of a global problem, then I don't see the polarization stopping at all. Or at least not until we either end up in civil war, or fatigue kicks in and we all just cut ourselves off or stop worrying about other people on the internet.