Polarization and the Nobel Prize.
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Politics and Activism

Polarization and the Nobel Prize.

koyn, the app is coming soon!

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Polarization and the Nobel Prize.

I am involved with a social media start-up called koyn that is taking on a big task: mitigate polarization exacerbated by today's social media. I showed koyn to an investor friend of mine and he said, "Wow! If you can do that you deserve a Nobel Prize". While it was nice to hear, given the Herculean nature of the task, I doubt myself or any of my partners will be going anytime soon to Oslo for an awards ceremony.

But we can try, and we will.

Before wetake on this giant, we require a better understanding of how nations across the globe have arrived at these extreme polarization levels. The wealth gap — the gap between haves and have nots, has grown significantly in the years following the Great Recession of 2008–09 (exacerbated by COVID) and stoked the fires of polarization. A stirring instance of it is the divide found in national politics. In Europe, Latin America and the US, countries are drawing hard and fast political lines based on ideology. Social media is not responsible for the wealth gap and thus can do nothing to mitigate it. However, social media can certainly help amplify the discontent of the masses, thereby priming them to be manipulated by self-sustaining erratic echo chambers. Over time when left unchecked, that only widens the polarity. But social media can neutralize the national forces of polarization, both political and non-political. The key is widening of, and opening the issues to civil and civic discourse — going back to the good old days when people came together to work on their differences and find a common way forward on a variety of things. Accessibility is critical.

In times past public discourse focused on a multitude of issues, where they were hotly debated, many of them being local. It is the consolidation of issues at the national level at the expense of local issues that has perpetuated polarization. Thus, a model social media platform that embraces the qualities of local AND global debate can help mitigate polarization.

Think about it, at present if you are on one political side of the equation your opinions are defined by national forces; opinion becomes a one-stop-shop. The casualties of rising national forces are two-fold — (a) the number of issues you can weigh in on has declined and (b) the disappearance of local issues. Much of this has been caused by the demise of local newspapers and television stations over the past decade, but social media has not helped. Without representation of local issues, the universe of issues on which to opine is too narrow. A narrow group of selection leads to more polarization.

So, the first solution is to increase the number of issues on which people discuss, agree, and disagree. As an example, at the local level you may disagree with many residents having the same political affiliation as your mayor, but you may agree with most on a school bond issue. If you are an agricultural community that depends on migrant labor, both major political party members at the local level may agree that migrant labor is a good thing (but at the national level, one party demonizes these same migrants!). The key is — greater the number of issues, lesser the polarization.

koyn allows people to anonymously state opinions on a wide variety of subjects. Some issues may resemble national politics, but those issues will not define a person unless they want them to. You can agree with someone on politics but disagree with them on fashion or sports. Showing that we are more alike rather than different is an underlying aspiration of koyn, doing which will help further mitigate the polarization in our society and culture.

Localization is the other mitigating factor koyn is pursuing. With koyn if you want to limit opinions to issues relative to your town, city, county, or state you can activate koyn's localization function. Only people in the defined area can respond. It will be local not national, like a local town hall meeting.

Although offering a wide variety of issues and bringing opinions to the local level will help to mitigate polarization, I doubt they are enough for koyn to get a trip to Oslo. But it is a start. A start for the better.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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