Social media divide: Political climate leads to heated online de - KPTV - FOX 12

Social media divide: Political climate leads to heated online debates

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Source: KPTV Source: KPTV

Whether you love or hate President Donald Trump, there are people who passionately disagree with you.

On social media these days, that divide is sometimes painfully clear.

“I don’t spend a ton of time on social media, I’m on Facebook and mostly I see people who are pretty upset about the state of things,” said Xander Khan in northeast Portland. “I don’t want people to be divided but I think everyone needs to stand up for what they believe in and hopefully have an open conversation about it because obviously arguing isn’t going to get anywhere.”

"Ninety-nine percent of my news stream, or my Facebok page now, is political stuff, so I’m kind of like, well, what’s going on in your life other than that?” said Bekah Ferris in northeast Portland. “I try not to get into debates over it... I know it quickly gets personal with politics because I know people are really passionate about it.”

Joe Gantt is a professor of Rhetoric and Media Studies at Lewis & Clark College, and also heads up the debate team on campus.

He said there’s some debate as to whether social media is the cause or effect of division in our society, but there’s no second-guessing the fact that social media has changed the way people interact.

“What’s happened because of the increasing sophistication of Facebook and Twitter is you no longer talk to as many people who don’t share your own viewpoint,” Gantt explained. “90 percent to 95 percent of your feed are people you already agree with. Once you have that perception you think that everybody agrees with you.”

Another problem is anonymity.

On most social sites, people can hide behind whatever username they create, and often say things to people they would never actually say to their face.

“On Twitter for instance, a lot of it is anonymous. And that anonymity allows people to go further in what they would have said than they might have if they knew their name was attached to it and their reputation was attached to it,” Gantt added. “These arguments existed before. They might have happened at the water cooler at work or at the bar, but what’s happened now is because you don’t have that person right in front of you, you’re not as worried about their feelings and concerns, so you might be a little more biting.”

Also remember to do your own research; there are a lot of articles and links online that are based in opinion, not fact.

So if you’re feeling overwhelmed, try logging out and spending more time getting back to face-to-face conversations – not only about politics, but everything else.

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