Image Credit: Jason HowleSocial Media: A Unifying and Divisive Force Matthew Krivan March 17, 2017 Culture, Opinions In January, more than three million Americans across the country gathered in various cities to protest the election of Donald Trump. The Women’s March was covered nonstop by the press and brought important issues into the spotlight, from human rights to global warming. So what sparked such a huge movement? A single, earnest Facebook post by Teresa Shook, a retired lawyer with no history in politics or social activism. This small and simple action birthed one of the largest political coalitions of the millennium, and sent shockwaves throughout the country. The power of social media to unify millions of people under a single banner is truly astounding; but what generally flies under the radar is its tendency to do the exact opposite. Tweets, posts, and videos that go viral are often those that are most radical, especially when it comes to politics. Scrolling through the most circulated posts leaves people disgusted by what their political opponents say and how they say it. This disgust prompts most to retreat back into their little bubble full of people whose beliefs align with their own. Surrounded by confirmation of their righteousness, social media users become more and more polarized until it is automatic to tune out the other side. What social media does not account for are moderates who simply want discourse and cooperation, so that some progress can be made. For those living in a political bubble, those moderates are a rare species. But moderates are not rare. The problem is that they are not heard. Every once in a while a moderating post will blow up on the internet, a call for peace in the seemingly endless war of politics. But, before you know it, that voice is drowned out by those of a dozen extremists whose loudness and intolerance is more intriguing. This election cycle brought to light the shocking amount of fake news that circulates the internet. Recent studies have found a large minority of news articles, both left and right leaning, are factually incorrect. Not only has this contaminated the minds of voters, it has penetrated the White House itself. Donald Trump believes that global warming is a hoax, even though 97% of climate scientists say otherwise. Steve Bannon believes that birth control makes women crazy. Kellyanne Conway believes in the “Bowling Green Massacre,” a so-called terrorist attack that simply never happened. Social media has allowed for the vast spreading of false stories that often justify absurd beliefs. So next time you read something online, actually fact-check for yourself, regardless of your political leanings. Polarization is discussed profusely by people from both sides of the aisle, but nobody seems to act on their words. We all say that we want to get along, but deep down many people think it is impossible to overcome their differences. This simply is not true, but social media can make it seem as if there is no conceivable way of relating to the enemy. If people begin to have reasonable conversations with their political opponents, I think they may be surprised by their findings. Because, at the end of the day, every American longs for the same thing: a better life. Love 0 000000 Data privacy The next click will forward you to a social network, where your IP address might be saved by the provider.