Social Media: Shouting from the Street Corner

Recently there has been a barrage of political patianship spreading through social media. Spouting political insults on Facebook or Twitter has become today’s equivalent of shouting on the street corner. Hurling accusations along the lines of us versus them only appeals to one side, whereas critical thinking engages the opposition.

The ability to voice differing opinions is part of what makes America great. It’s this idea that every person’s perspective counts that helps define democracy. Opinions should lead to discussion, however. There is not enough discussion today. An intellectual exchange of ideas is fruitful. Change and understanding are the byproducts of it. This takes critical thinking, however.

Critical thinking requires us to question not only the ideas of others, but also the views that seem obviously right to us. Critical thinkers can’t simply dismiss their opponents. They must listen, question and analyze their opponents’ views. Learning and understanding often result.

While there is no shortage of opinions, there are few critical thinkers. Instead there are assaults and counterattacks. It has sparked an ugliness that has become all too common in America and reflects a complete absence of critical thought. Each time a person thinks he or she has a monopoly on the truth and no other viewpoint is valid, there is an absence of critical thought.

There are many who post things on Facebook or Twitter that they never would say. It’s interesting that a feeling of anonymity has extended itself to the world of social media where a personal photo often accompanies the words posted. Still, most won’t confront the poster when partisan comments are made and so it appears as if these rants are either supported or at least tolerated. The worst part is that no discussion follows. The rants may satisfy the poster in the short term, but the critical thinkers in their audience may react very differently than the poster considered.

Social media has great power to unite. Unless people require more of themselves and undertake the work involved in critical thinking, the power of social media will be wasted. Are Americans brave enough to start a discussion?

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