I’m wondering if Facebook is at least partially to blame for Americans’ anger toward people who don’t vote the same way as they do. For my face-to-face friends (a.k.a. “real friends”) and neighbors I don’t know a whole lot about their political views. If politics does come up in conversation they tend to moderate their speech so as to avoid offense. If a Trump supporter were at a cocktail party at our town, most people would try not to say that Trump supporters were “stupid, sexist, and racist”. (That said, the one Trump supporter I know had his “Trump/Pence” lawn sign stolen within a couple of days. And the minister at the local Unitarian church filled a sermon with “What to do if you’re stuck at a family dinner with that crazy uncle who belongs to the NRA”. My friend, a retired military officer, thought “I’m that uncle and I don’t think that I’m crazy.” (The minister, who is married to another man and has two adopted children, neither of whom is of the same race as either the minister or his husband, works “diversity” into every sermon, but apparently an NRA member at the table is not as welcome as a Syrian migrant.))
With Facebook, however, we not only can see what everyone thinks about politics but see those views expressed in the strongest possible language.
Example from a anti-welfare-state friend: “[my former graduate school thesis advisor]’s Facebook feed is non-stop liberal hate.” I’m also friends with the guy and indeed his postings do seem hostile to American Deplorables:
Did Don the Con forget to mention his foundation was just SHUT DOWN by the A.G. in New York?
Shame on the WSJ for this editorial complaining that AG Schneiderman’s letter ordering the Trump Foundation to suspend operations and comply with the law is politically motivated and timed.
Bruce is right [when Springsteen talks about Trump having “no sense of decency”]
An ignorant thug gets his comeuppance. [over an article about Trump “groping women”]
Scientific American grades the candidates on science. Trump gets an F:
Washington Post follows with another huge slam: “It’s beyond debate that Donald Trump is unfit to be president.”
NYT offers a wordy, highbrow takedown of Donald Trump. In few words: He’s a bigot and a liar.
Why mince words, @latimes ? Trump is the biggest liar to run for president.
“Trump isn’t even qualified to be human, much less President.” Choice words here.
Trump’s campaign: built on racism and lies because he’s a racist and a liar.
Watching Michelle Obama speak now. She’s so good, so compelling. The presidential qualifications she speaks of rise far about party lines. [i.e., the spouse of a current or recent leader is a source of political guidance]
If not for Facebook both of us would likely be unaware of this guy’s (1) hatred for Trump and Trump supporters, and (2) hero(ine)-worship of Michelle Obama.
For my part, I was defriended after commenting on a posting demanding that Clarence Thomas resign because of a story quoting a woman who says the he touched her in 1999. (I asked “If I can find a woman to say that you touched her 17 years ago, will you give up your job and paycheck?”) I lost another “friend” after he celebrated the firing of Billy Bush based on a recording made surreptitiously 11 years ago. (I asked “Would you want your employer to make secret recordings of you and then decide whether or not to continue to employ you based on comments that you had expected to remain private? What if a Republican employer used these recordings to fire all of the most vocal Hillary supporters?”)
What do folks think? People are saying that Americans are more polarized than ever. Could it be that the rise of polarization with each election cycle is tracking the increasing popularity of Facebook? Another factor, of course, is that government consumes a larger percentage of the economy every year (now up to about 50 percent of GDP; compare to less than 20 percent in Singapore where, presumably, they aren’t bickering all the time). So of course people fight more about how the central planners in Washington, D.C. and state/local ministries will spend this increasing percentage, just as a family discussion over what new car or house to buy is more intense than a discussion about whether to buy a book or movie. But with Facebook we’re a lot more aware of what other citizens are advocating.
Philip Greenspun’s Weblog