Another day, another trending topic. One day it’s a third-party Google Chrome “Trump Filter,” a few weeks ago, it was how to block Trump on Facebook, all after his own call to “close up the internet.”
It all sounds like a good idea – block the rhetoric of someone you don’t agree with. Don’t listen to things that you don’t want to hear.
But there is more and more evidence that the echo chamber created by curating our own content is not only helping candidates like Donald Trump (and on the opposite end of the spectrum, Bernie Sanders), but in a way, it created them. Article spoiler: by throwing more and more weight behind polarizing candidates, we are abandoning moderation and forgetting how to compromise.
As PR practitioners, we often need to find a way to break into a newsfeed and get people to think about something new. And with the dwindling pool of traditional journalists who seek to tell all sides of a story, it can be harder and harder to do. So we think of ways to make our message at least catch the attention of someone who may not be interested in our point of view. I spent a couple of years doing PR for Windows Vista… and convincing people to try something that had already been reduced to a punch line? Well, let’s just say I had pretty good job security.
But as PEOPLE, I believe that there is more value than ever to exposing ourselves to a viewpoint outside of our comfort zone. I’ve seen posts by former colleagues that I know and respect that seem to think it’s not crazy to block immigration from Syrian refugees, citing quotes about Muslims & Islamic extremists. But my aunt was married to a Syrian man, so the cousins I’ve known my entire life are half Syrian. And they, as well as their extended family who came to the US over the last 40 years, are all Christian. So in my experience, the arguments just don’t work. But there must be SOME reason for their logic. I know that the people aren’t unintelligent. But I do believe they are uninformed.
Admittedly, I’m more likely to “Feel the Bern,” than I am to “Stump for Trump.” So it’s tempting to just block those people from my feed, or unfriend them. But knowing that a social media echo chamber is more likely to support extremism, I’m fighting that urge. I’ve always believed in the old adage, “Never wrestle with a pig, you’ll both get dirty, and the pig likes it,” when it comes to political arguments. So I don’t push, I don’t comment. I don’t go to a place where arguments can devolve.
But for 2016, I resolve to get back to better balance. Read, watch, or listen to more things I don’t agree with. And engage with people who I already know and respect, and every once in a while, respectfully disagree. We may not change each other’s minds, but I believe we can all be better for the exchange.