In a culture of outrage and siloing, social media is the go-to place to attack and to hide. Users rant and vent, and they huddle in like-minded silos. Social media encourages impulsive and angry responses to tweets or posts that irritate us. It also allows us to avoid challenges to our conventional wisdom. We can block, unfriend, and hunker down in private groups. Social media has so far aggravated, rather than helped to cure, ideological polarization and partisanship.
Is there a higher and better use?
Facebook is the largest forum in the history of humankind for free and open communication among citizens. It can be used to engage in meaningful conversations about important political, social, and economic issues. The choice is ours to make.
As is demonstrated in Jeff Rasley's latest book, “regular folks” can use their social networks for civil discussion and debate, and then for positive political action. Or, they can follow the lead of President Trump to tweet insults and ridicule political opponents. Who do we want to be as a nation?
The Case for Civility exposes the causes and effects of hyper-partisanship. It offers a "modest proposal" to treat the symptoms of toxic polarization using social media. An experiment in Facebook based on the values of civility, tolerance, pragmatism, and moderation proves there is a cure.
Rasley is the author of nine other books, including Godless - Living a Valuable Life Beyond Beliefs and Bringing Progress to Paradise, a memoir about adventure and philanthropy in the Nepal Himalayas.