Not liking the sitting president of the United States and other politicians isn’t actually a new American pastime, but social media – especially Twitter – makes it far easier than ever to vent frustration. There are always a lot of trending posts that target elected officials.
It seems almost impossible that true unity could ever be achieved again.
“Getting criticized as a leader, fairly or not, comes with the job – and that’s never going to change,” said Craig Barkacs, professor of business law and ethics in the Business Master’s Degree Program at the University of San Diego School of Business.
Social media might not be helpful. Social media’s potential as a broadcasting tool for the masses is certainly being used far too often to spread negativity.
“While it is possible to argue that social media was originally intended to help people connect with their friends, family, and like-minded people, it is not a noble idea. Time has proven the technology to be little more than a perfect tool for imperfect people,” explained technology analyst Charles King of Pund-IT.
King said that the desire to spread rumors and post ‘gotchas’ responses, tear down leaders/build preening sociopaths tends overwhelm attempts to provide context. “Plus, the inability of companies like Facebook and Twitter, to police themselves, have often led these platforms to become the eyes for misinformation storms.”
The Political Digital Divide
Our two-party system almost guarantees that half of the country will be unhappy at least half the time. But, what has changed in the last decade is how social media has impacted the ways that virtually everyone can voice their opinion.
Barkacs emailed this reporter to say that it had given everyone access “to a hyper-amplified Megaphone, which far to many wield recklessly in order to defame & destroy.” “Reflective, civil dialog is difficult to achieve and the current trends on social media make it almost impossible. Listening to and considering other points of view? You can forget about it! Consider the death threats that our public officials are now being subject to. Look at the phone numbers and addresses that appear, which are obviously designed to terrorize office holder. Unfortunately, political opponents have been made into political enemies.
The danger is that foreign actors are also trying to undermine our government. The meddling goes beyond election time. It seems to be ongoing throughout the year, making it impossible to close the deep rift in our nation. It makes us look weak even on the international stage.
Barkacs explained that “not only do we appear weak on the international stage when we cannot afford it, but worse we look dysfunctional or in decline.” “America’s leadership role in the world is being viewed with growing skepticism. We appear to be a nation divided, which is exactly what we are. Social media allows foreign actors to join our fray. Their goal is to amplify our polarization, and undermine the strength of the United States.
Another danger is the fact that social media allows us to react instantly to everything our leaders say and do. This is not necessarily a positive thing.
Barkacs said that “reactions on social media have become reflexive.” “It’s like this mindset prevails: Misinformation, or disinformation?” Who cares? It’s irrelevant. It doesn’t matter.
A handful of Twitter commentators can build a following that often retweets facts and opinions.
King said that social media has “at one level, become a mechanism to easily create the kind of cool kids’ cliques which are common in high schools.” These kinds of groups are more emotionally stimulating than they are intellectually stimulating. Understanding the power of Facebook and other websites is only possible through emotional engagement. People who want to engage large numbers of people understand this point and are more successful at using social platforms to advance their often obscure goals.
Although the worst commentary may not last for very long, it can be drowned out with the next wave.
Barkacs stated that social media has made it easier for many people to live their lives in five-second increments. “Who has the time to reflect and think? “React and move on, not giving a second thought about the carnage that is left behind.”