Perspective and Civility
“What is wrong with him?!”
“How can she believe such a thing?!”
“Why in the world would they support that kind of candidate?!”
These sorts of sentiments are all too common nowadays, as many people retreat to their social-media silos and their television “news” equivalents.
With Election Day on the horizon, this is a perfect time to politely encourage our members, retirees, officials and staff to take a deep breath, focus specifically on issues, and try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Such an approach will be good for one’s blood pressure, if nothing else.
Polarization in the U.S. has reached alarming levels, and that belief is backed up not only by data but also by daily anecdotal evidence in all of our lives. Our path to this regrettable destination partly took root in local news deserts – as legitimate journalism dried up, it was replaced by digital imposters cleverly masquerading as authentic outlets. There are many hundreds of such online entities across the country, most of them driven not by a desire to inform and provide balanced reporting, but rather by the political agendas of their big-money founders. The New York Times did a breathtaking, in-depth report on this situation a few years ago; there is no end in sight.
When you combine the dwindling state of the true news media with the proliferation of social media, it’s not pretty. Navigating the murky waters of social media can be challenging, particularly when it comes to politics. But one indisputable truth is that whatever you click on, you get more of. As one researcher put it, the concept of confirmation bias is nothing new. “But in social media, this bias is propagated simply by reading, liking, and sharing content that acts to support those convictions we already hold, while avoiding content that challenges our beliefs. Essentially, we begin to isolate ourselves from those opposing opinions until we’re surrounded with people who agree with us.”
Unlike traditional media outlets, social media at best has very loose rules governing the truthfulness of its content. Even when crackdowns occur, they’re often sporadic, tardy and not fully effective. The lack of accountability corresponds with a lack of accuracy.
Finally, we’d all do well to remember that in an age when so many social media, traditional media and other outlets make their living from online ad revenue, their respective content is usually designed to agitate – and to keep you clicking and tapping and watching. This doesn’t just apply to Newsmax or MSNBC or CNN. Pay attention to your local weather forecast and you’ll often hear words like “damaging, destructive” and “severe,” even if those are just slim possibilities for later in the week or in another region. Behind the algorithm are equations that have figured out how to keep us engaged.
Particularly with the November elections looming, I encourage everyone to pay attention to issues rather than personalities, and remember that the vast majority of people want what is best for our country, even if we sometimes have different ideas about how to achieve those goals. And, as always, be assured that the SIU will support candidates who support our industry and workers’ rights, regardless of political party.