How Can Rational Debate Flourish in the Age of Drama-Fueled Social Media?


I remember the first time I opened by Facebook account – and it was a fairly innocent situation. I just filled out a form, I uploaded some photos, and I thought that was that.

And then after I have added some friends, I thought that it was just a great place to catch up with people. I thought it was a great place to figure out what's going on in their lives and remember important dates, like anniversaries, birthdays, that kind of thing. Boy, was I in for a surprise.

When my friend Rob started sharing anti-Trump news links, it set off a firestorm with my other friends. I'm blessed to be in a position where half my friends are conservative and the other half are very liberal.

In fact, over the years, I've noticed over Facebook that instead of bridging the gap, a lot of the information being shared on Facebook has actually solidified my friends' politicization. I have people that I knew from grade school who are essentially apolitical. They really are not pitching their tent in some sort of political camp. They can flow from conservative to liberal fairly easily.

But after exposure to social media and hanging out and friending people who think exactly like them, they have either become super pro-Trump or super anti-Trump. They have either become super conservative or super liberal. It's as if there's no longer any middle ground.

And it's really a very worrying situation because it's hard to have a rational debate with somebody who thinks you either support Hitler or the devil or you are part of the problem. Do you see how this works?

There is no longer any gray.

Everything has to be black and white. Either you're with us or you're against us. You can't be a friend and a foe at the same time.

Believe me, I've reached a point where I have had to unfollow people. I did not unfriend, but I have unfollowed them because of the unnecessary drama.

Gone were the days where people would just post a link and post some innocuous open-ended statement that would provoke or encourage genuine discourse. Those are long gone. Now, it is either you agree with this or you are the devil. That's pretty much the long and short of it.

And it's really very hard to find people like myself who are straight in the middle remaining friends with either camp. Either you join one side and turn your back on the other, or vice versa. It's really hard to foster genuine debate in this scenario because it really all boils down to drama.

If you think about it, social media is set up in such a way that it rewards drama.

Because when people post pictures of Donald Trump morphing into the devil, that sure is to get a lot of "likes" from people who flat out hate Donald Trump. But it's also a guarantee to turn off people who think that Donald Trump is the best thing since sliced bread. The same applies to the other end of the political spectrum.

There is no longer any middle ground because this drama that gets a lot of clicks, gets a lot of likes and engagement also splits people apart because drama pushes what would otherwise be a rational discussion about something that is fairly gray and complicated into a black and white affair.

I don't know about you, but life cannot be put in neat, tidy little boxes.

Life is complicated. And unfortunately, if you get a lot of your political sustenance from social media, it's very easy to overdose on junk food.