Twitter is ruining America. Many Americans seem to agree that we are reaching a very divisive point in our history. There are many arguments available as to why this is the case, and many probably have some truth to them. Twitter is pretty high up on my list of offenders, dragging us down with the facade of constant communication as a means for bringing us together, when really, it is driving us apart.
There are two sides to the Twitter problem. The first occurs when a tweet is published. The goal of tweeting about something is to seek affirmation for what is being done, seen, or believed. People confirm the ideas of the tweeter by retweeting or liking a post. Each interaction inflates the ego of the poster, confirming what was already believed to be true.
This affirmation-seeking problem is exacerbated when politicians are involved, believing their Twitter followers represent the American people as a whole, as opposed to a hardcore group of those who agree with them.
Any negative online feedback incites a fury, immediately followed by dismissal. It is easy to dismiss someone’s idea when it is expressed with the anonymity of a comment. Twitter gives us a sense of hearing directly from people when really those people are anonymous, hiding behind their screens, communicating not as a person, but as an online persona. We easily choose whether to accept or dismiss the views of that individual based on if they agree with us or not.
The second side to the Twitter issue, and the side I would argue to be more detrimental, is the constant poison we are fed by the false or only partially true stories that spread like wildfire in an environment such as the home feed. If people learn what to believe from looking at their Twitter feed, taking in the headlines as small truths, they will be grossly misinformed.
The internet is full of falsifications, but when you see that your friend or someone you admire has shared something, you are likely to agree and internalize the information, regardless of its truth. It takes a truly inquisitive person to see past the constant influx of junk that appears before their eyes to find the truth in the Twitter feed.
Furthermore, we choose to follow people and organizations we agree with. We see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear. We are constantly going further in the direction of what we already believe, rarely stopping to question if the other side has a point. We don’t even know what the argument of the other side is.
If people learn what to believe from looking at their Twitter feed, taking in the headlines as small truths, they will be grossly misinformed.
This election has brought Twitter to the forefront in a way not previously seen. Donald Trump in particular, for the betterment or detriment of his campaign, has taken to Twitter as his soapbox. Trump tweets at all hours of the day and night, feeding his supporters with the lines they want to hear, keeping them engaged. He even live tweets during debates, allowing his supporters to listen to his stream of consciousness, instead of hearing the arguments being made by others.
The reach of Twitter’s damage has been far. The social media culture has become so intertwined with real life that it no longer seems reasonably escapable. The American psyche has been infected by the divide created by our ability to filter the constant intake of information to confirm our ideas.
Social media is causing us to be horrible to each other in real life, fostering hate, feeding the divide. People no longer seem to be united by the idea that we are Americans — we are too busy despising others for being a liberal or a conservative, as if there is only either/or.
When did things become so black and white? Yes or no? For or against? The more you discuss with people, face to face, the more you find out what you have in common. We often have knee-jerk reactions to things instead of delving deeper to find that we can agree on many things, but might have different opinions of how to get there.
Both Democrats and Republicans want to keep our children, families, cities safe from gun violence, they just have dramatically different views on how that can be achieved. If we could focus on our common ground as a starting point instead of our differences, so much more could be achieved.
We need to seek out ideas different from our own, look past the feeds of constant affirmation and try to heal our broken nation together.