I don’t consider myself a conservative. But then I also don’t consider myself a liberal. Rather than aligning myself with one set of policies or philosophies my approach is to take it all one issue, or one candidate, at a time. I’d probably call myself a “free thinker”, but I’m afraid that term has overly-liberal connotations to those on the right.
One of the things that this recent election cycle has made crystal clear is the existence of, and the dramatic impact, of what we’ve come to refer to as the “echo chamber”. By exposing ourselves to only those ideas and ideals with which we agree we deny ourselves the opportunity to objectively evaluate opposing views and values. If you lean liberal, for example, not only are you more attracted to like-thinking opinions and sources of information, but social media – specifically Facebook – reinforces that environment by showing primarily things that agree with its perception of what you “like”, and are thus more likely to interact with.
This isn’t good. This isn’t healthy. This isn’t how rational and reasonable discourse happens.
This is how polarization happens.
In reflecting on my own echo chamber I came to a couple of conclusions.
First, Facebook thinks I’m liberal. It very clearly shows me things that it thinks I will support, agree with, and most importantly from Facebook’s perspective, interact with and click on. It’s not surprising, since I’ve been decidedly anti-candidate. Facebook doesn’t have the concept of being anti-candidate without throwing the entire conservative baby out with the polluted bathwater. By being strongly anti-candidate it assumed that I was also anti-conservative, and thus defaulted to showing me primarily – perhaps even only – the opposite view.
Second, I don’t know where to turn for the opposing view. The media itself has become so polarized and full of misinformation that it’s nearly impossible to identify what one might consider being a reasonable and rational source of other points of view. When it comes to a more conservative slant, for example, Fox News is the poster child, but it’s so extreme and has lost so much credibility in my eyes that it would be nearly impossible for me to take it seriously. And in order for any point of view to be of value, it has to be credible; I have to be willing to take it seriously.
So what does it mean to be credible? What are my criteria for taking any source of information seriously?
First, I’m tired of personal attacks. I realize that that’s been a key component of the election process, but that’s done. Over with. The winners are the winners; the people we have are the people we have. Let’s stop with the personal attacks. Let’s keep the discussion to policy, impact, decisions, and implications. Tell my why a particular proposal is good (or bad), don’t tell me why the person suggesting it is a scoundrel.
This is one of the reasons I can’t respect Fox News. It feels like it’s all about tearing down people, as opposed to a healthy debate of ideas.
Now, I get that this is hard. For example, are questionable business dealings of the past substantive points to discussions of the present? All I can say is maybe. To the extent that they indicate potential impact on future “policy, impact, decisions, and implications”, absolutely. To the extent that they serve to simply to ridicule and tear down a particular individual, then no – as tempting as it is, they don’t apply.
And that’s where I am. What sources of information focus on substantive policy and not personality? What newspapers or other sources present a truly rational, fact-based overview of conservative (or liberal) positions, decisions, and proposals?
I’d love to understand the “other side” better.
This is what happens when we stop paying for quality journalism – This inspired me this morning. In particular “Read at least one news source that doesn’t reflect your political view.”
Blue Feed, Red Feed – “See Liberal Facebook and Conservative Facebook, Side by Side” All I can say is that it’s stunning, regardless of what side of the fence you generally live on.