The response that I found most moving came from my friend of high school days, Diana Conn Worth, also of New Jersey. “I love to discuss politics over the kitchen table with friends. We have different opinions but they are respected. I voiced my opinion once on faceless book and felt exposed and violated. It was like a form of abuse. It was hurtful.
A recent Pew Research Center Internet & American Life Project survey indicated that nearly one-fifth of people admit to blocking, unfriending, or hiding someone on social media over political postings.
I spent some face time with Assistant Professor Joshua Frye of the State University College at Oneonta’s communications department to gain an academic’s perspective.
Frye says she sees the controversy about the often not-so-edifying effects of Facebook political discourse as a continuation of a debate over the public’s fitness to talk constructively about its business (rather than limiting that discussion to society’s super-educated elites) that goes back to Plato.
“Attitudes towards public deliberation are under attack,” Frye said. “It’s really become a privatized experience of public messages. Facebook is privately owned, and any information (uploaded onto it) can be used for commercial purposes.”
Frye said, “We have become a very polarized public in recent history, (and) political culture is so polarized.”
He said this situation is in part attributable to the U.S.’s two-party system. In this “polarized consciousness,” Frye said, “matters escalate. There’s no real deliberation at all.”
The bad feelings produced by a society that thinks of itself in terms of conservative vs. liberal, free markets proponents vs. regulation advocates, one percenters and 99 percenters, religiously devout vs. non-believers, seem to be inescapable, a source of bewilderment, frustration and angst for which no one seems to know a remedy.