A new Pew survey depicts online discourse as a taxing, unproductive echo chamber
On social media, according to a new Pew Research poll, the vast majority of people talking politics follow only politicians who they support (66% of users), ignore posts from their friends that they disagree with (84%), feel as if people say what they’d never dare to in person (84%), believe that some also hold back out of fear (64%)—all for the sake of very rarely changing their views on anything (20%).
What they’re more or less split on, though, is whether or not these conversations are any less respectful and less informative than those that occur elsewhere.
The survey offers a portrait of polarity in a presidential election as viral as it is virulent—be it because of insults slung on the candidates’ own accounts (or denials in debates of assertions made years ago that are still readily available to see), Donald Trump hiring an online-media provocation kingpin as his campaign CEO or Hillary Clinton’s donation function tied to Trump’s tweeting habits.
Nearly twice as many people have been “worn out” by political discussions online (37%) than feel good about them (20%). The rest don’t know what to think.
Hope and change are not completely lost, though: More than half of Facebook users see a range of beliefs on their feeds and forty percent do on Twitter. Four out of five people also believe social media has helped people get involved in what they believe in, and three out of four feel the platforms help bring new voices into the discussion.
And while three of five people find it frustrating to talk with people they disagree with online—and a slightly higher rate (64%) find that when they do, they realize they have less in common than they’d thought—most Democrats and Republicans do, at last, agree on a few points: that the discussions themselves are close-minded and frustrating. Maybe that’s a starting point.
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