Here’s the scenario: you’re in public, waiting in line to get a coffee, you scroll through Facebook and see a post that critiques liberals (or conservatives), you chuckle and hit share. You go about your day, and check back to see someone’s commented on your shared post, and called you out for being ridiculous, narrow-minded, etc. But all you did was share a post, so what’s the big deal? So you dismiss them and move on.
The most fascinating phenomena happening in politics and social media is sharing posts from pages that you agree with. While this seems insignificant, lawmakers have discovered over 3,600 political “like and share” memes that were an integral part of the 2016 election. Not to mention the indictment of the Internet Research Agency, a Russian “lie machine” whose sole purpose was to create discourse on social media and increase the validity of utter nonsense through completely nonsensical accounts and content.
In addition to that, a study found that people put themselves inside echo chambers to only hear what they want. The Washington Post noted that “when deliberately false information was introduced into these echo chambers, it was absorbed and viewed as credible as long as it conformed with the primary narrative.” So this combination of hearing only what you want and also dismissing criticism as no big deal because it’s just a post is an interesting mix.
Posts that people want shared, need to be dramatic, ridiculous, and understood quickly. So that means absolutely no complexity, scientific data, or reputable sources to back it up. Just quick jabs at things that are clearly ridiculous and have no basis.
For example, David Hogg, a Parkland shooting survivor is compared to Hitler:
Memes as such are shared instantly, and without a lot of thought, as they offer quick validation. Even though the person sharing may not subscribe to the image 100%, they may believe that 2A shouldn’t be re-examined, and such an image conveys that belief, by comparing someone who believes gun laws should be reformed to Hitler.
Another one would be this one from Facebook, critiquing the opposition Trump’s immigration policy:
This particular meme has over 21.9k reactions and over 62k shares. While a small number may be sharing and protesting it, the vast majority are people simply hitting share because it shows how leftists are idiots by illustrating a country’s complex border issue via an individual door.
But even 10 seconds of critical thinking should tell anyone this is ridiculous. The image accomplishes nothing, offers no sources, no suggestions. It only calls those who disagree with staunchly conservative policies idiots. As we quickly make our way about our day, we “don’t have time to talk politics”, but we certainly have time to share memes and articles that we believe represent our beliefs. But considering 62% of people get their news from social media, maybe a little more thought should be put into it.
This is all to say that we should spend at least a little more time when an issue arrives in our fast and faster paced world.
As Christina Emba put it, the “tendency to promote one’s favored narrative is natural, but too much confirmation distances us from other perspectives and makes us unable to see the truth when it’s finally presented… and in the end, a constant us-vs.-them mentality depersonalizes the holders of alternative views.”
Reputable sources exist, objective scientific data exists, and if you passionate enough about a political topic, you should be passionate enough to properly educate yourself with credible data and resources.