You know, right now it’s almost impossible to talk about this and not talk about politics.
I saw this exact thing happen very early on in the past presidential race, primarily in my own social media feeds, in my mothers social media feeds, and in my grandparents exposure to media (they don’t use social media).
My social media feeds were very pro-Hillary, so I ended up seeing a lot of anti-Trump material in them, involving past scandals that he had been a part of (for example the failed condos in Mexico). Yet when I would mention these things to my mother, she had no idea what I was talking about, and I would end up pulling up five or six articles to show her what I meant before we could even begin to talk about the implications this would have on the election.
Conversely, on my mother’s social media, she saw not so much of pro-Trump, but more of anti-Hillary material, and the situation would happen in the reverse. She would bring up a new event in her email issues, or some new information regarding Benghazi that I had not heard of yet, and she would pull up five or six article about those issues before we could have an actual conversation about them.
There was an interesting moment during one of my visits with my grandparents where we were watching the SNL skit of the first presidential debate (Link here) and my grandmother made a comment on how accurately Kate McKinnon was mimicking Hillary Clinton’s body language and mouth movements, so I commented on how well Alec Baldwin mimicked what Donald Trump would do with his hands in his debates, and her response was “Hmm, I’ll watch him closer during the next one, because I haven’t noticed it”. This just shows how she was purposely insulting herself from Clinton’s side of the election by focusing so much on her body language and not the body language of the candidate she was voting for.
This just shows that Sunstein was right in saying “that too many people will be insulated from exposure to views that are more moderate, or extreme in another direction, or in any case different from their own” simply because that isn’t what aligns with their views.
The only critique that I have for this piece is that it focuses on the dangers of this polarization of insulation of people based on what they believe, but it doesn’t talk about how to mitigate the damages of these effects, and it goes so far as to say that the author isn’t even sure if we should look to mitigate these effects, because the effects essentially mean that people are at least listening, but I can’t agree to that.
As the author states “The good news is that the Internet can operate to debunk false rumors as well as to start them” but the sad part is, most people in these extremes of groups that he talks about either don’t know how, or don’t care to, fact check the things that they read on the internet. One of the biggest things I’ve ever learned from an internet safety course was that you need to fact check everything you see on there because anyone can post anything and you don’t know who posted what and if it’s true or not. I think that if more people did fact checking there might not be less polarization, but the polarization would be more grounded in truth than it is in most circumstances on the internet.