The Day the Discourse Died: How Social Media Culture and the Partisan Divide Are Poisoning American Politics


The hands down, number 1 biggest problem with our system is easily people’s inability to view and discuss politics without defining all things along party lines.

There's a right-wing stance and a left-wing stance. The majority of people pick one and then tow the party line. Anyone who disagrees with them is a snowflake cuck liberal or a fascist nazi conservative. Too many people lock into an echo chamber that only confirms what they already believe.

Too many people view the other side as ridiculous caricatures incapable of rational thought, and so they never have their beliefs truly challenged. This leads to people inadvertently perpetuating the cycle that prevents any true political discourse from happening before it even begins.

Really the majority of people fall somewhere in the middle.

Please, if you see yourself as a diehard on either side of the aisle, take some time to consider the possibility that the other side may have some valid points and complaints. Remember that your brain has a subconscious tendency to only accept things that confirm your current viewpoint, and that confirmation bias will cloud your judgement if left unchecked. Critically analyze your own viewpoint as hard as you do the opposition.

We'll never move forward to any workable solutions until the masses on both sides remember that we're all on the same team. we all want to see this great nation thrive, and people start working together instead of against each other.

I'm not saying you need to actually BE moderate and never hold any political leanings at all. None of us fall perfectly in the center on every issue. For example, I tend to “lean left” on most things economic issues, and I usually prioritize the economy when I vote. That means the majority of the time I find myself voting Democrat, and the fact that I have that leaning isn't a bad thing.

I think it's best to approach each issue from a position of neutrality at first though, just so you get get an idea of what the unfiltered picture looks like. When someone views things as objectively as possible that way, it lets them look at the situation from every perspectives, find the counterpoints to all the arguments being made, weigh the pros and cons fairly, and come to conclusion rooted in logic and critical thinking instead making decisions based solely on personal bias and emotional reasoning.

Now, the reason why we’re probably going to struggle closing the partisan gap I just talked about is entirely our new premier political forum and center of our social interaction, you probably guessed already, “The Facepage / social media culture.”

Facebook, in theory, has the potential to completely revolutionize political discourse and let new ideas be introduced and exchanged at a rate never seen before. The fact that it has that potential makes what it's actually done feel like a huge kick in the nuts.

Facebook has basically eliminated all rational discussion and replaced it with a cheap facade that in no way acts as a substitute by allowing people to make sure the only ideas that ever reach them are ones they'll agree with. By cherry-picking who can interact with their posts and what sort of posts appear in their feed, people end up creating an environment we've come to refer to as an echo chamber.

People share out memes to an audience they've pre-selected to agree with them to collect the obligatory likes that confirm their beliefs. In turn, those same friends send them memes to be liked back. This chain of constant confirmation of their beliefs combined with the fact that those beliefs are never challenged makes people's political opinions transform into undeniable, indisputable fact within their subconscious.

Alongside this, certain styles of political memes have risen up that are intentionally designed to make discourse die before it has even begun.

The most destructive of these in my opinion are ones that paint anyone from their opposing party as absurd caricatures that're incapable of rational thought so people won't see the things they say as worth giving any real consideration. There's also memes designed to turn specific talking points into jokes as well, memes that misrepresent the thinking behind their opposition's proposals, memes that present data in a misleading way to create biased images in people's minds, and even some memes that just outright lie knowing people who've developed emotional biases will accept them without factchecking.

Cross party interaction is low, and when it does occur the chances of it leading to a productive discussion were sabotaged in the personal echo chambers long before the people involved ever crossed paths. Instead of having a civil discussion with an exchange of ideas and each side producing points and counterpoints, it becomes an interaction that's basically scripted ahead of time. Both sides take turns exchanging talking points given to them within their echo chambers, talking more at each other than to each other.

Since both sides see themselves as indisputably correct and sees their opponent as a ridiculous stereotype incapable of producing a valid thought; neither side actually reads what the other side has written. Instead, they skim through the messages, looking for things which stand out superficially so they can take the statements out of context and either ridicule them, or counter the out-of-context statements with their toolkit of preprogrammed talking points. Both sides end up debating against the cherry picked pieces of each others posts and neither sides true stance is ever communicated to the other side.

It doesn’t work towards a resolution, so it can never produce one. Instead continues until exhaustion and boredom cause it to peter out, or one side loses mental composure and begins spewing venom and name calling at their opponent and shutting them out of the conversation until they leave.

Almost all political discourse in America is occurring in this format. I haven't seen a true political discussion anywhere in years unless I was a part of it. This is all compounded by huge waves of misinformation being sent out by foreign interests looking to influence our political process that’s designed to find it’s way into the echo chambers and exacerbate the partisan divide.

Facebook culture itself isn't contributing at all. The reliance on memes to do the majority of exchanging ideas has caused all detail and nuance to vanish from the dialogue, and its as if people have forgotten details ever existed in the first place. People only want their information to come from videos and memes. Reading is met with stiff opposition. The thought of someone typing more than a paragraph and expecting it to be read has become offensive to some people.

If you're one of the rare ones who's read this far into one of my writings, thank you. Really though, I'm writing this for me because I enjoy the writing process. It’s a good release and it helps consolidate my thoughts. I expect most people to keep scrolling. Only a small minority of people even consider this much reading acceptable anymore.

The common sense solution would appear "to be stay moderate, avoid echo chambers, and responsibly source information. Then, from your position in the middle, attempt to disrupt the echo chambers from outside them. In practice this isn't as functional as it sounds. I've tried it; It simply does not work.

First of all, trying to force myself to pretend I'm perfectly neutral was unbearable, and second I actually had less effectiveness in getting my point across when I tried to be wishy-washy and appease both sides.

Because a moderate isn't completely indoctrinated along either party's lines and can't communicate with the same talking points as someone in the echo chambers, both sides label them as the opposition and ignore everything they say.
Calls for cooperation between the parties by anybody aren’t taken very seriously by either side. On top of that, moderates are slowly being pulled into the echo chambers and the general population is being spread from the middle out to the extremes because there’s a lack of representation in the middle.

I'm sorry to have brought you this far just to tell you that I see no viable solution. It seems that the divide can only grow further with everything operating like this. Trying to bridge it is futile, since neither party is allowing themselves to see common ground and only see themselves as increasingly more incompatible every day.

Unless people start believing that there’s a common ground that we should be looking, we’ll never find common ground.

I'm not a psychic, I can't see the future. An objective analysis of the current situation tells us to expect an increasingly divided population. The implications of that are frightening, but in reality we have no idea what will happen next. I know for it a fact that it won’t be as amazing as what a truly united United States could achieve.