Column: Political echo chamber heightened by technology


Courtesy of playb

Editor-in-Chief Annelise Wells writes about how she has found a way to minimize her time being on social media. 

Connor Bahr

Both the left and the right can agree that the divide between political and ideological groups is the greatest it might ever be since the Civil War.

Calm, intellectual debate has largely been replaced by riots and tear gas. But why is this happening? To answer that, I’d have you take a look at your phone as that little computer in your pocket is the world’s largest echo chamber.

If you’re currently a student, chances are you’ve had the technology to browse the web for as long as you can remember. Computers are wonderful pieces of tech that allow one to communicate with others through vast distances, see opinions from around the world and make friends without ever meeting. But as technology becomes more widespread, real interactions begin to decline. One incredibly important drawback of this decline is the filtering of opinions.

As I said earlier, technology allows one to be able to see opinions from around the world. However, it is also just as easy to ignore or avoid any opinion that you don’t agree with.

It is clear by a simple skim of certain websites that specific political sides reside there. The left has taken Tumblr, while the right lurks on sites such as Reddit and 4chan.

Angela Nagle speaks of this in her book, “Kill All Normies; Online Culture Wars From 4Chan to Tumblr To Trump and The Alt-Right.” The people who make up the political/social side of these sites are never or hardly opposed when they post something, simply re-affirming that opinion greater.

When opposition does arise, it is mostly met with name-calling, violence and strong emotions. The logical debate doesn’t seem to be an option because the views that these people hold onto have never been opposed, and therefore these people feel that they can’t be wrong.

As a result, the amount of extremism on both sides has increased radically, creating a divide in politics that extends beyond a difference in views. Both sides see the other as extremist caricatures. A study carried out in 2012 by Stanford University states that each side of the political spectrum has had disdain toward the other side that has been increasing since the 80s.

The study showed that the negative feelings hinged more on partisan alignment than actual ideological practice. One can only infer that these negative feelings have continued to rise since the study.

Because of the nature of the echo chamber, each side slowly shifts away from the middle ground, creating an atmosphere of high tension. 

Even among the professionals, the lawmakers and politicians who are running the country, the divide has grown to the point where working with the side that you don’t belong to is seen as inconceivable and ridiculous.

A clear example of this is the recent government shutdown, in which Trump and Pelosi refused to compromise, resulting in the longest shutdown in American history. Some even called John McCain’s death, “The near-extinction of Bipartisanship”

In a polarized, violent America where each side of the political and ideological spectrum despises the other side, it will not be long until the lack of communication, compromise and tolerance break down into large scale civil unrest that will wreak havoc for all of America and perhaps the world.