There’s a news story today which is proving incredibly divisive on social media.
It draws a line in the sand, and you’re either on this side of the line or that side of the line. As this is an issue where the rights of one group and the rights of another group potentially come into conflict, it’s one of those stories which forces you to choose. Where do your priorities lie?
Which side are you on?
Which news story am I talking about? Frankly, it doesn’t matter. There was a different one yesterday, and there’ll be a different one tomorrow. When tomorrow’s story rolls around you’ll once again be forced to pick a side, and when you vocalise that opinion you’ll probably end up having to justify your position. Oh, but don’t worry about complexity. That’s not how this game works. You won’t be expected to express the nuances of the issue, and if you try then you’ll probably be damned from both sides as someone who just doesn’t get how straightforward this is.
If the news stories aren’t enough, there’ll be a referendum or an election or even a goddamn movie along in a minute. Don’t worry. Another reason to draw another line. Another reason to define your world as ‘us’ versus the inevitable ‘them’.
Maybe our online relationships need filtering in this way. Maybe it’s a natural spill-over from the fact that Dunbar’s Number suggests that we can only maintain about 150 people in stable social relationships. In generations past, we ended up with whichever 150 people we happened to get tangled up with in real life, and that was that. We had bosses, co-workers, lovers, friends and acquaintances. Even the ones we didn’t like we still had to ‘know’. Nowadays, social media means that the number of potential ‘friends’ has increased exponentially. Being in touch with people, just like movies or books or music, is no longer the limited commodity that it once was.
So that’s where these lines keep coming in. Block. Unfriend. Unfollow. Thin the herd.
Keep drawing the lines, and filtering the echo chamber. Maybe you’ve got a friend who you agreed with on the last 25 issues that came up, ranging from the hugely important (Trump/Brexit/#MeToo/gun control/trans rights/free speech/hate speech) to the rather less so (the great Last Jedi wars of 2017) but you suddenly find they’re on the opposite side of the line for today’s issue.
Screw ’em. They don’t understand how straightforward this is. Block. Unfriend. Unfollow.
Less and less shades of grey, less and less tolerance of any kind of alternative opinion. Just a group of voices that sound increasingly like our own, chanting endlessly.
Nuance does not exist in this dojo.
Complexity does not exist in this dojo.
Until the last line gets drawn, and it’s just us in a tiny little box. Shouting at ourselves.
And the sickest joke of all? We’re not even listening.