American Politics are Dead, and I Blame Social Media

I hear the gasps now. “But Andy, your mortgage gets paid because of social media. How can ANYTHING be social media’s fault?”

In the beginning, we all promised that social would lead to the democratization of media. Finally, one person with a great point could be heard by the masses, without the media getting in the way and distorting the message. That was the goal, the dream, the vision.

But what do we have instead?

Everyone in my Facebook feed who posts something political, made their decision who to support months if not years ago. I have yet to see a single post where someone says, “Here is a really well thought out article that discusses two sides of a complex issue. Please read it so we can discuss as mature adults in a reasonable fashion.”

No, every political post is along the lines of, “Another example of how Trump sucks.” Or, “Here’s why Hillary is going to jail.” Or, “Look, GOP is imploding. LOL HAHAHA #DemsRule.”

And really, this is our fault. We took a channel that we could own, and turned it into a circus. People complain about how biased FoxNews, CNN, and MSNBC are. But they need to look at their own Facebook and Twitter feeds. Individuals pander to their friends and followers worse than the media does. No Democrat reads an article about John Kasich and posts, “Hmm, I hadn’t thought about this before. He seems to make sense.” No, everyone moves on to the next article in their Flipboard hoping the headline says something like, “Donald Trump declares he likes to eat puppies.”

Ari, Chris and I learned this in 2007 when we built MyElectionChoices.com (ironically we lost the url to some Chinese spam company). People were really happy when their results confirmed the beliefs they had entering into the survey. They were very displeased to learn that they had something in common with the opposite party. Sometimes I wish we could try that experiment again. But I bet we’d find the same results.

So instead of a place to learn, social media has become an echo chamber where like minded individuals like each other’s posts, which triggers the algorithm to deliver more of the same types of posts that the same people can like even more. Social media is now built to make sure you don’t see a differing opinion, especially one that requires reading and/or thought. We’ve built a channel where everyone who believes the same thing can put on blinders and believe everyone sees things the way they do.

And that is the exact opposite of what the democratization of media was supposed to be about.

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