This morning a conservative friend posted to Facebook a link about how Mitt Romney had a very positive message and was a decent person, in contrast to President Obama who was extremely negative, full of lies and was treating half the country with contempt.
This post was followed soon thereafter in my NewsFeed by a link posted by a liberal friend about how President Obama had a very positive message and was a decent person, in contrast to Mitt Romney who was extremely negative, full of lies, and was treating half the country (or at least 47%) with contempt.
Tonight I see posts from my conservative friends with links about how Mitt Romney will be victorious tomorrow despite all the polls showing the opposite because Romney has seen internal polls - and saying how the liberals are all delusional after being fed propaganda polls by the mainstream media.
Those are intermixed with posts from my liberal friends with links about how Barack Obama will definitely be victorious tomorrow despite all the polls showing it to be quite equal - and saying how the conservatives are all delusional because they are cherry-picking only the polls they want to see.
Who is correct? And who is delusional?
The Internet has brought about a glorious revolution in online publishing - easily allowing anyone to post anything they want and have it read by tens or hundreds or millions. We talk within the communications profession about how today, in 2012, "every company is a media company". In presentations I have given on social media topics I have often accented this point:
There has never been a better time to tell your own story in your own words without the interpretation of media or anyone else. Your words - raw and unfiltered.
What we are seeing in this election, though, is the corollary to that statement:
There has never been a better time to hear your own views echoed back to you without the interpretation of media or anyone else. Your views - raw and unfiltered.
Because it is so easy for anyone to publish information - and because there is so much of it out there - we naturally filter the information sources to find the ones that we think are the "best."
In this book, The Information Diet, Clay Johnson writes of how we seek information online in our "desire to be affirmed" and that "affirmation" is the goal.
We want to be correct.
And there are any number of people and sites willing to tell us how correct we are.
Liberals read the Huffington Post while conservatives read the National Review. Conservatives watch Fox News while liberals watch MSNBC. Liberals take faith in Nate Silver's polls while conservatives believe Gallup's polls are the answer. And a thousand other websites, podcasts and video sites join in the fray.
The end result is that we wind up in a self-fulfilling echo chamber that reinforces and reaffirms the rightness of our views and how wrong the other parties are.
And so my conservative friends could make their strong statements because they are wholly and entirely convinced that they are absolutely 100% correct. And my liberal friends are equally convinced that they are absolutely 100% correct.
Where does it end?
Tomorrow we hold an election. One candidate will win while the other will lose.
The ads, the postings and the articles will fade in their intensity...
... but the echo chambers will remain.
How, then, do we bridge the divide?
As C.C. Chapman wrote in his excellent piece this morning, "Wednesday Morning In America," the hard work starts Wednesday. Despite all the venom and vitriol... despite all the negativity and harsh words... despite all the divisions... we must as a nation work together to move the USA forward.
How do we break out of our individual echo chambers? How do we suppress that desire for affirmation enough that we stretch our minds and listen to other points of view? How do we move beyond our self-reflected delusions?
I don't know that anyone has all the answers... but we must together work toward that goal. Somehow.
If you are a US citizen casting a vote tomorrow (and I do hope you will vote (or have already voted)), we need to think of what happens next...
... and how we start listening to each other's points of view - even if they are adamantly opposed to our own - and finding somewhere in there the common humanity that can allow us to work together... as insanely hard as that may be to do.
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