The First Global Platform to Avoid Meaningful Conversation

All week, I’ve been trying to stay off of Facebook.  In fact on Wednesday, I kinda, sorta didn’t want to hear the results. I didn’t like either major party candidate and the one third party candidate I supported had no chance of winning.  I voted for him anyways out of principle.

But today I finally took it all in.  I’ve spent the last couple hours reading posts by everyone. Perhaps because I have been more quiet than usual this election season, I still have lots of Facebook friends from both sides. Sucks to be me, cause I had a lot to read.  All I can say at this point is WOW, never before have I witnessed just how much of an echo chamber Facebook has become and is becoming. I see pro Trump supporters posting about how anti-Trump people don’t understand stand them. I see anti-Trump people posting on how horrible Trump supporters are. Everyone is mad – no one is talking, at least not to the other side.  Or if they do talk, it’s mostly snarky comments – hit in run jobs with no thought and no hope of thoughtful replies.

I must admit, this is a first – the first truly global platform to avoid meaningful conversation. The power of Facebook is in the ability connect with others. Yet, it seems to work best when we avoid meaningful conversation.

Perhaps this should be expected. Facebook is generally perceived as a place to spend just a couple minutes of our day and then move on.  As a social media researcher, I know that’s how people use it.  And yet, people still post things (like political posts) as if everyone else will not use it that way.  Call it one of the great ironies of online activity.  People expect everyone else to spend time thinking about their posts, but don’t take the same time to do that with others. When other people don’t spend the time and post snarky replies, the original poster becomes frustrated and unfriends those people, leaving just people that already think like the poster to comment in the future.  I’m not saying this is the wrong reaction (by either party), but is rather endemic to how people use Facebook.  So during the election season and now in its aftermath, the echo chamber is in full swing and will likely only become worse over the coming years.

Of course there are exceptions to this, those rare people who go to Facebook to interact with others in deep and meaningful ways. They may even search for others they disagree with in order to learn from them and think more clearly. Thankfully, I have quite a few friends like this, including some that are liberal and others that are conservative.  I cherish their involvement with Facebook and are, to a large extent, the reason why I continue to use it.

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