Social Media and a Polarized World

I just finished the Netflix documentary called “the social dilemma” this morning. It feels fitting considering that we are all waiting the results of a very polarized and passionate election.

Have you every wondered, “What happened to our world? When did it get so crazy?” I have. Often. And thanks to this documentary now I have some insight.

I’d encourage all of you to watch it. Unless you cancelled your Netflix account because of the online drama over the “Cuties” movie. (Which ironically is a perfect example of what the documentary is talking about.)

Did you know that fake news travels six times as fast on social media as real news does? Did you know that the algorithms that control our social media feeds don’t care whether the things we are reading or watching are true or not; they just care that we are engaged with them? Are you aware that those same algorithms know what types of things engage us and send us more of them to keep us attached? This is just the beginning.

Thanks to social media and newsfeeds we can easily share our feelings and connect with people who think like us. We can just as easily mute or unfollow people who are different. Whether we want to admit it or not, we all tend to live in echo chambers. Vilifying people who are on the “other side” without actually talking to them or trying to understand is how we roll these days.

Polarization is becoming a serious problem. Sides. Us vs. Them. It’s everywhere. Politics. Mommy wars. Religion. Even COVID has become polarized. The corporations behind social media and the news stations don’t see a problem with this as long as we use their app and make them money.

Somewhere amid the endless scrolling, we’ve lost our ability to think for ourselves. To reason critically. To recognize bias. To relate to other humans in real life. This is a serious problem!!

It feels like social media has emphasized all of our brokenness as humans while suppressing our dignity. But we are addicted to our phones, email, notifications, and newsfeeds. I am. I’ll admit it. I love the distraction, the constant information, and the retreat from a boring or stressful life. But at what cost? I’m beginning to think that the consequences aren’t worth the benefits. I’m waking up to the ways I’ve been manipulated. To the ways I’ve been encouraged to sell myself. And to the ways I’m missing the simple beauty of real life.

So what do we do? Here are some things that I’ve done:

  • Watch “the social dilemma.”
  • Turn off social media notifications.
  • Leave my phone behind or turn it off.
  • Work to build real in-person relationships.
  • Seek out and listen to people who are different and with whom I disagree to challenge my beliefs and ideals.

What do you think? I want to hear your thoughts. Change is only possible when we do it together.

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