Social Media and the Death of Intelligent Debate

Social media is great for shouting. Less good for nuanced debate. It rarely changes mass opinions.

If people don’t share your view, you’re unlikely to change their mind by being outraged and emotional on social media. It might feel like you are making well received points, but only other people like you are listening..

Filter Bubbles

Interesting evidence for this from a New York University study into over half a been using million tweets judged to have moral language, emotional language or a combination of both. A good, short, read. While tweets containing a combination of both are far more likely to be RTed by people with similar political views, there is very little interaction between the two sides.

The same principle applies to other things – Brexit and the Remain vs Leave debate and even more trivial things Apple vs Android.

One of social media’s great claims is it brings people together. It seems to have be very effective at bringing subsets of people together whilst paradoxically driving the world further apart. In the UK, our politicians seem content to become increasingly far left or far right and engage in debates where the principle thrust of the argument is often the lack of credibility of the opposing side.


I put a couple of tweets out on my personal Twitter and Facebook accounts along the lines of:

They seemed like things that people have been debating robustly recently.

Of the 40 or so responses from people, public and private, (and there were people who had views both positive and negative about each question though there was a bias towards one position in each case), only one person had a view that had moved closer towards the opposing position. Slightly closer.

What can we do to encourage more construction conversations in our daily lives?

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