Familiarity breeds contempt


The result of this study seems counter-intuitive, but it’s not:

Dwelling in a political echo chamber — where you only encounter people who agree with you — is hardly conducive to a healthy democracy.

But it turns out that broadening your horizons by perusing opposing points of view on social media may just make the partisan divide worse.

That’s the depressing result of an unusual experiment involving 909 Democrats and 751 Republicans who spend a lot of time on Twitter.

“Attempts to introduce people to a broad range of opposing political views on a social media site such as Twitter might be not only ineffective but counterproductive,” researchers reported this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

You can read the details of the experiment here, and sure, it is just one experiment but it rings true to me, if needless to say only anecdotally. It’s one thing when I think and read about politics in the abstract – open borders, identity politics, statism, cult of diversity, big government, and so on – but it’s when I chance upon (most often on the social media, of course) direct expressions of these views by some progressive celebrity or a radical academic that I see red (metaphorically and… metaphorically). Whenever I’m sick and tired of politics and don’t feel like blogging, at least not about politics, all I need to do is to take a peek inside the sewer that is the Twitter and see one or two pearls of wisdom from any of the large number of the woke folk and next minute I’m like

This phenomenon might or might not be the function of the dominant paradigm of political debate at the moment, where the combination of short attention spans and short burst of messaging (whether it’s a 5-second grab on TV or a 140-character tweet) doesn’t support a calm, reasoned, nuanced and moderate exposition of one’s views but instead short, sharp, shouty slogans. Attempt at bipartisanship, or trying to find the “common ground”, have always relied on the underlying values of patience, civility, and conversationality. These are largely things of the past.

I’m as guilty of following the new rules as the next person whom the magic of the internet has provided over the past 15 years with their personal bullhorn – though once in a while some of my non-right wing friends will tell me that something I’ve written was quite measured and made them think. When they do that, I ask them which post it was, and then I delete or rewrite it full of invective, mockery and scorn. Just joking.