Social Media’s Influence on the Political Divide

Social Medias Influence on the Political Divide

Sofia Bezila, Editor

A majority of American citizens receive their news from social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, and the dreaded Twitter. The main issue of this is the spread of misinformation – – along with a lack of. Most people are headline readers, only looking at the headline of an article without any further research, automatically assuming the article is accurate. Overall this leads to a miscommunication between opposing views since it is impossible to find any common ground if both sides are hearing different stories. 

It comes down to common sense as one realizes that the majority of people will only seek out “information” that agrees with their view. Unsurprisingly, everyone has been guilty of this. A common phenomenon that confirms this is confirmation bias. This online filter blocks a realistic perception of politics and instead picks the bits and pieces of media that confirm a person’s prejudiced opinion. 

Yet the main cause of a lack of exposure to opposing viewpoints is the algorithm found within social media platforms. The algorithm works to only show what that person wants to see based on their likes and searches in order to increase time spent on the app (ultimately leading to more profit for these companies). Not only are these platforms polarizing politics, but they are also feeding into the addiction of individuals in order to gain their personal data and sell it to advertisers. 

A study done by PEW Research Center in 2019 shows how Americans believe the political debate has worsened over the last few years. The majority stated that political debate in the U.S. has become less respectful and that former president Donald Trump changed the tone of politics for the worse. It can be inferred that over the past three years since this study has been done the numbers have only increased.

“Filter bubbles” are proving to be extremely harmful to the average American citizen. By only seeking out articles or snippets that align with a specific point of view, there is an increase in the validation of worldviews but a lack of exposure to opposing viewpoints. Both sides of politics look down on one another, losing all respect and replacing it with hatred. Thanks to media platforms, the extremely accessible internet creates a facade that Americans are in a political war.

Social media companies have the ability to regulate political targeting ads in order to counter extremism and polarization. But if these platforms do not wish to take action, individuals can take it upon themselves to reach outside of their circle and cultivate a diverse network. When exposed to the other viewpoint a mutual understanding can be reached along with mutual respect. Both parties want the same for their followers and in reality, Americans are all fighting for the same thing – – which begs the question: 


What are Americans fighting for and what are they against?

Americans are obsessed with the idea of ‘freedom’ and that one word might be the answer to what parties fight for. Whether it is freedom of speech or freedom of religion, politicans preach on how every American has the privilege of personal freedom. Yet freedom is also what parties are against. When it comes to the right to bear arms, absolute freedom protects a person’s right to purchase not only handguns but military-grade weapons that allow mass casualties. Despite the 100,000 Americans who are victims of gun violence, many states have passed Stand Your Ground Laws that allow a person to claim self-defense when shooting another human. But this is an American’s personal freedom, right? Those who claim “my body, my choice” against the vaccine are also the ones who claim to be anti-abortion (against a woman’s right to choose for her body). A very hypocritical situation where both sides want to have their own personal freedom but when it comes to their opposing party they would like to restrict that freedom – – as long as it’s not their own.

In short, social media does have an effect on polarization in politics. Yet there is a solution to this issue. Americans can preach on their rights to freedom, but first, we must learn to respect each other’s necessities. The majority of rights listed in the constitution are a necessity. People need to be protected in order to live a life free of discrimination and the danger of one’s life. But that can only be achieved when the people come together as a community to have a real discussion on the issues that we are all upset about – – maybe then we can come to an agreement. Keeping an open mind and truly listening to others can prove to the politics that constantly attempt to divide us, that we are all citizens of this country and if we are to live together in unity then tolerance must be learned.