We are all well aware by now of the dangers and detrimental effects of social media. People can get themselves into an information bubble that shields them from information and perspectives that might challenge their thinking. They can be so poorly informed that they will stage an insurrection seeking to overturn democracy while believing sincerely that they are defending it.
All of that, to be clear, was possible in the era before the Internet. The only difference now is that there is no need to be located in the same place to hear the same message and forge bonds of camaraderie and shared conviction. Instead of a cheap and unimpressive zine one can get the message of conspiracy theories and propaganda in a snazzy email newsletter or a polished looking YouTube video.
What the internet does is expand the reach of our connectedness as well as enhancing its constancy. Not only can we connect with people around the globe, we can remain connected around the clock.
That same peril of the internet is one of the positive wonders that it can offer. I am connected to so many people different from myself. I learn so much not through constant reinforcement of my assumptions but the consistency with which they are challenged. For example, a friend shared a t-shirt related to mental health that really struck me. It has changed the way I approach situations on a daily basis and inspired a song. I won’t share the t-shirt here. The point it made may be something I will likely return to in a future blog post. Here I simply want to emphasize the way social media gives me opportunities to get to know people that are already friends in new and deeper ways, and in the process be pushed to think, learn, and grow.
It remains a sad and challenging situation we find ourselves in, that we have few ways we might hope to reach those who are opting to exclude our perspective from the arena of ideas they confront and wrestle with, even as we try to understand their perspective that leads them to do so. What may encourage us, however, is the upward trend of people to seek and find information that they need. Remember that there are outward and inward trends as well. The internet can drive wedges between us or it can serve as a bridge. The more people each of us includes in our circles of friends, the harder it will be for anyone to avoid hearing things they don’t want to hear.