Every day I read threads of friends from both sides of the aisle and profess the futility of trying to engage in meaningful political discourse and pledge to devote my time to better pursuits and projects.
Efforts to puncture the blue bubbles or the red bubbles are not greeted with gratitude or interest but defensiveness, accusations, and ‘whataboutisms’. It is foolish and naïve to expect otherwise; our bubbles are our mental homes that provide safety from competing narratives and discordant information. We do not praise the brick lobbed though our windows that brings light into the home.
Our faith in our narratives is as strong as any religious faith we so commonly reject in the name of modern rationalism. When we do change our minds, it is more from evolution than revolution; evolution is gradual and unconscious, revolution is violent and threatening. Revolution comes from a radical element that represents a minority view, but it is enabled by another minority that finds it less of a threat and maybe even an asset serving their narrative. Revolutions incite defensiveness and reaction; responding more to passion than reason and the destruction of critical institutions that become taken for granted.
A newer and stronger enabling force is a media that is more motivated by clicks and shares than subscriptions and quality journalism. Clicks are generated by emotional responses, particularly outrage. Combined with the immense fragmentation of our feeds, this new click objective magnifies our division. We do not see the same news or stories and we do not see stories with the same frequency; we seek the networks and stories that confirms our narrative. We read for confirmation not information.
Unfortunately, we are left to retreat to our bubbles. We can understand the opposition even when we disagree, but we are delusional when we think they will agree when they read ‘this’. Common ground gets harder to reach.
This is a fact to be accepted more than a problem to be solved. The best we can do is try to understand and this requires more questions than statements and social media is not about questions. Accusations are door closers; outrage are its locks.
Elections are decided at the margins; in this space voters will move in one direction until an outrage of some sort reverses them. In a media market where outrage is the product we should expect a politically volatile landscape.