Political Polarization Is Pretty Scary, So Let’s Try And Understand How Social Media May Promote It

Political Polarization Is Pretty Scary, So Let’s Try And Understand How Social Media May Promote It

If we understand it, we can better control its influence in our lives.


It's hard to ignore the strong division of political opinion in modern America. It seems like everyone has such strong opinions, is quick to take sides, and will fight against anyone who disagrees with them. In fact, politics are quickly becoming a topic that many people don't want to bring up for fear of starting a fight with their friends or family. But why is this political polarization growing so rapidly?

Many would argue that it's due to the Trump presidency, and while that may be partially true, few fail to recognize the impact that social media may play in promoting these strong opinions. Technology is still relatively new to us, with social media being even newer. So that means that we are just beginning to understand the impact that it has on our lives.

What we do know, though, is that social media applications are designed to tailors themselves to their users. What I mean by this is that what you see on Instagram, Twitter, Netflix, YouTube, and other applications is specifically chosen to appeal to you. These apps are programmed to find content that has been algorithmically selected as something that you would like to see. We influence these algorithms every single time we look things up, like or favorite posts, save posts, or any other interaction that we may have on any form of social media. And it's all being tracked by these algorithms.

In regard to politics, this means that every time you interact with something that aligns with your political viewpoint, which we are often more likely to do with something we agree with than something we don't, the algorithm takes that into account and starts promoting more content that's similar to what you interacted with. So every time you react to something that aligns with your way of thinking, your social media pages are going to promote those similar viewpoints more often. Eventually, this will lead to your social media feeds being filled with posts that only align with your way of thinking. You'll begin to see only posts from similar-minded people, and the other side of every argument will begin to get drowned out because of the way the algorithms are set up.

This is what may lead people to have such extreme political viewpoints. Every day, people are being bombarded with content that they are likely to agree with, therefore enhancing their own stance on many issues. Some of them may even start to think that their opinion is the way that most other people feel simply because their social media feeds are filtering out other viewpoints. Every time they go on social media, their own stance on political issues may be reinforced, causing them to feel stronger and stronger about different subjects and leading to stronger polarization.

Although this may not be the exact cause of political polarization in America, it's definitely a contributing factor. And as the use of technology and social media starts to grow, so will the impact of algorithms in all of our lives. However, if we realize the impact that these algorithms may have on our way of thinking, we can better control the influence that they have on us.

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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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