In this day and age, political discussion can often lead to contention, ad hominem attacks and deeper partisan divides. Social media, a catalyst for such issues, allows people to engage in aggravated fights from the comfort of their own homes on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. The increase in political content on social media platforms and the subsequent fights are reflective of a larger political climate in America and the example that is set by our representatives on both sides of the political aisle.
President Trump often takes to Twitter to insult leading Democrats in Congress. In a recent tweet, Trump referred to Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) as “little Adam Schitt.” Resorting to name calling, the President demonstrates a concerning lack of decorum.
On the other side of the political spectrum, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, a recent elect to the House of Representatives, often tweets about her plans to attack the GOP. In response to a GIF of herself with the quote “I don’t think he knows how to deal with a girl from the Bronx,” she tweeted, “Can’t say I didn’t warn the GOP ahead of time.” While she is not stooping to name calling like President Trump, she does resort to an “us vs. them” dialogue that deepens the partisan divide and contributes to Congress’s inability to compromise.
Such aggravated and inflammatory tones that characterize political discussion on social media are taking a toll on users. In a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, researchers found that, “More than one-third of social media users are worn out by the amount of political content they encounter, and more than half describe their online interactions with those they disagree with politically as stressful and frustrating.” What causes even more escalation is the idea that social media emboldens users to say disrespectful things that they would never say in person.
The Pew Research Center also found that, “Most users try to ignore political arguments on social media as best they can; when that fails, they take steps to curate their feeds and avoid the most offensive types of content.” Such actions lead to an environment that encourages people to disengage, rather than have open and productive discussions. Traditional rhetoric and argument conventions are being abandoned in favor of ad hominem attacks, and social media makes the problem even worse.
The decorum of politicians causes people to disengage and actively avoid political discussion on social media. Rather than hiding behind the screen, people should come out and voice their opinions in the open.