Yes, there is great division in our country. Yes, there seems to be more hatred, vitriol and anger across all our flickering screens. Yes, there are many things wrong with America, But I think we need to take a step back before joining that cacophony of angry voices with our personal rants.
I know, I know… you are already furiously typing out:
- But you don’t get it because you’re white
- But you don’t get it because you’re a man
- But you don’t get it because the economy in Texas is stronger than Detroit
- But you don’t get it because you are too stupid to see what is happening
- But you don’t get it because you have a home
- But you don’t get it because you have your health
- But you don’t get it because you are not victimized/attacked/abused
- But you don’t get it because your beliefs are not being attacked
- But you don’t get it because you have a job
- But you don’t get it because you don’t see how “they” are abusing the system
- But you don’t get it because…..
You get the idea. It doesn’t matter what I say, there will be a host of folks who are already jamming their keyboards with their party line – and that is the biggest problem we have going on right now.
It is the “us” versus “them” mentality that is at the root of nearly every problem we have. Black Lives vs Blue Lives. Republicans vs Democrats. Conservatives vs Liberals. Tax payers vs Tax users. Rich vs Poor. Employers vs Employees. Red vs Blue. Men vs Women. Kids vs Adults. Renters vs Landlords. Christians vs Muslims. Atheists vs Religious. White vs Black. Young vs Old. Star Wars vs Star Trek. Cutters vs Frats.
It is limitless and we will always find things that differentiate us. Our greatest successes and advancements however, have been made through our cooperation. It is the great paradox of humanity – we ARE social creatures and we are hard-wired to be with each other, but this grouping also is at the core of why we argue. Our need to compete clashes with our need to cooperate.
I am going to attempt to explain what is happening in society without pointing fingers because that finger-pointing is the trigger that throws people immediately into a combative posture.
- The availability of media has proliferated exponentially in recent years and show no sign of slowing
- With the growth of media comes the increased need for content to fill those channels
- Well researched or thought-out media is expensive to create in terms of money and time
- Quick off-the-cuff content is cheap and easy to create
- Hyperbolic media attracts more attention
- Niche media attracts similarly minded consumers
- The drive toward quick off-the-cuff media that is hyperbolic and aimed at a niche group is the most viral
- The content on social media sites is more often extreme because the algorithm has been taught that gets the most response
- The perception is that the world is more greatly divided than it really is
Okay, some of you are still with me – others are already working up a pithy or snarky response. If you’re still here – thank you. It is my belief that we are not as nearly as divided as it appears on facebook and twitter. I think we have a lot more that we agree with each other about than disagree.
I am a white heterosexual meat-eating male that believes in God – a lightning rod for opposition from a good portion of the country. But you know what? I have great friends that are female. I have great friends that homosexual. I have great friends that are black. I have great friends that are atheists. I have great friends that have committed crimes. I have great friends that do drugs. I have great friends that are vegan. I have great friends that are sexually promiscuous. I have great friends that are politicians. I have great friends that are Rednecks. I have great friends that are professionals. I have great friends that are on government assistance. I have great friends that are activists. Often many of the qualities are in the same person.
You would think that I would spend all my days fighting for my life… but you know what? I spend my days smiling at them, shaking hands with them, hugging them and genuinely enjoying my myriad human interactions. There is something about face-to-face meetings with people that erases differences and innately finds what makes us similar. Our online interactions remove that common ground seeking ability.
Let’s talk about what we can or should do about the state of division we find ourselves in when online. First, let’s address your response to a post that either really pisses you off or at least disagrees with your beliefs.
What are your options?
- Write a response showing that you disagree
- Block the writer’s feed
- Ignore the post
- Post something positive, helpful, loving or kind (not as a reply to the post, but just as an item in you feed)
What are the outcomes?
- You will feel better for having stated your mind, feel better for doing a small part to help your side, feel good about the fact that like-minded people will see you as a good soldier in the fight. These are all actually very selfish motivations. You will not change the writer’s mind. You will not help foster understanding. You will add to the division.
- You will feel better for having shut the voice of the opposition (at least on your own feed,) feel better for doing a small part to help your side, feel better (if only a little) for not being sucked into an argument. Again, these are quite selfish. You will not change the writer’s mind. You will not foster understanding. You will do nothing to add or subtract from the division.
- You will feel better (if only a little) for not being sucked into an argument. You will not foster understanding. You will do nothing to add or subtract from the division.
- You will feel better for not being sucked into an argument. You will do a small part to foster understanding. Your positive message will subtract from the division. It will cause the negative post to fall further down the feed list.
Okay, so now there are a bunch of you saying, “Kumbaya is NOT what we need. We need to address the issue of…!” I’m not talking about mindless platitudes. You can address real issues – just not from a “you suck, we’re right” standpoint. Find the common ground and touch on that or something unrelated but heart felt.
Or just do what my mom does.. and post a picture of kitten!
by Chris Doelle
PS. Better yet – get offline and go talk to people. Say something nice to the person in line ahead of you at the grocery store, give a head nod to the guy gassing up at the pump next to you or a quick smile to the next person passing you on a sidewalk.