Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens, or The Closing of the Mind

21 03 2013

I just unfollowed someone on Facebook over political posts. The Pew Internet & American Life Project did a study a while back about political discussion on social networks, and it found that a pretty good percentage of people have unfriended or blocked people from their social feeds over political disagreement. The study showed that liberals do this more often than conservatives and moderates by a pretty wide margin, and that bothered me. We’re supposed to be accepting of differing views, aren’t we? Isn’t it silencing dissent to drop someone just because they don’t agree with you? Doesn’t that contribute to living in a bubble while simultaneously escalating the larger shouting match? Certainly no good can come of it, right?

I haven’t gotten over those concerns, but they haven’t stopped me from blocking and dropping people over the last year. It bothers me to do it, but frequently I’ve found that trying to remain in the conversation amounts to slamming into a brick wall, over and over and over again. I’ve had several decent social media conversations with people who disagree with me, in which we lay out our reasoning respectfully and try to answer each other point-for-point without sinking to name-calling. These are great. They’re also rare. So often, people post pithy little images with quotations (often spurious) from Founding Fathers with no context or comparison with their other writings. They don’t want to hear that the quotation is spurious or that it directly contradicts other writings of the same individual, or that the overall writings of the person in question show a far more nuanced belief system than is implied in the quotation. They don’t really want to talk about anything. They just want to plant their flag and be done.

I guess there’s nothing wrong with that, and I guess that I’m doing the same thing a lot of the time. That really isn’t my intent, and I often pepper my political rants with requests that those who disagree with me join the discussion and explain their views. I’m not saying this makes me a perfect citizen or something, but I genuinely want to understand the views of those who disagree with me. To date, even the best of these conversations hasn’t managed to sway me, and I’m sure I haven’t swayed those on the other side, but I think there’s great value in the exchange of ideas. It really bothers me to be the one choosing to shut that down.

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