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How social media has changed our political discourse

Posted at 9:55 AM, Sep 26, 2021

Social media plays a big part in today’s society. Apps like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram connect people to friends and family. It is also how many people consume news.

The evolution of social media is worrisome to some as it also creates an avenue for negativity and misinformation.

How social media has changed our political discourse

"Social media has allowed us to create our own sort of bubble universe in which we interact with people that agree with us and we get information from people that we already expect to know what their information will be,” said Dr. Kevin Wagner, chairman of FAU’s political science department.

Dr. Wagner and Dr. Robin Vallacher, interim chairman of FAU’s psychology department, told WPTV’s Michael Williams that social media amplifies the good and bad.

"In the old days when we grew up, we had people on the street corners and different people talking in the neighborhood. We would hear different points of view and would have to moderate a little bit,” Dr. Vallacher said. “Today you can just defriend people and only accept people you want to hear and that just produces incredibly positive feedback loop that just spirals to extremity."

Political round table discussion with Brian Crowley

Dr. Wagner said he believes the misinformation, especially in the political scene, will get better as the internet ages.

"This technology is new and people are still getting their hands on exactly what to do with it and what the pathologies are, what the negatives are and we are starting to understand them now,” Dr. Wagner said. “As we grow as a society and the younger generation who is a little more technology savvy becomes more a part of the electric, I think you'll see the ability to handle this stuff a bit better.”

Dr. Wagner also said the feeling of isolation is creating an outlet for issues on social media.

“We are very isolated and the internet has become a place where we are not isolated. There is an old saying in political science that people are innocent of ideology, which is to say oftentimes it's about feeling like they belong in a group that they identify with and then the ideology comes a little bit later,” Dr. Wagner said. “They use social media to create a group. sometimes that can be dangerous if the group is pretty far out there or is pushing some pretty strange things."

Both Dr. Wagner and Dr. Vallacher encouraged people to find information on the source of the information they are reading.

Closing comments with Brian Crowley

"We encourage people to occasionally break out of their echo chamber and listen to other sources, Dr. Vallacher said. “We point out that you should look at the reliability of the sources you listen to."

In a message to parents, Dr. Vallacher said it is important for adults to not only monitor children’s social media activity but have conversations about what the child is listening to or posting on social media.

"Open up their minds and have them listen to other people talk,” Dr. Vallacher said. “Tell them don't just close your mind and don't just rely on one source. Give them some information and ask them to think about what they are listening to."

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