Saturday, February 26, 2011

Social Media: Creating Insular Communities

This post is cross-posted from The Cooperative Catalyst, a community blog of which Will is also a member.


Just recently I got into a discussion on Facebook with some of my mother's friends about the goings on in Wisconsin. To make a long story short, we disagreed about a lot of things including tax cuts and unions.  I ventured to my mom's page to see some of the other discussions between her friends around various issues (usually threaded from an article she posted) and I found myself shocked. "This is crazy talk," I was thinking. It was the equivalent of watching Fox News or listening to Glenn Beck. Then I began to think a little.......

Were one of these people to scan the conversations I have online they would probably label it "liberal shenanigans" or even "crazy talk." However, we are not a part of each other's conversations. Social media has a way of creating insular communities where we only read and discuss what we agree with. Comments tend to be supportive and originate from people who share the same views.

As my mom stated in a conversation we had about the discussion, it's hard to talk to people who don't agree with you. It often feels like a war. This is especially true when using social media tools that limit us to asynchronous commenting or using limited characters. In addition, sometimes comment areas and online conversations can lose civility due to the format and the fact that there is no face behind the words being said.

Still, it is important that we engage those with whom we disagree. We need to hear the other side. We need to engage the other side. It's how we better understand our own beliefs. Sometimes, we may even question our long held beliefs and really reflect on them. They may also learn a bit from us as well.

One of the reasons why I love participating in this blog is because we challenge each other's thinking. Still, at the root of it all, we are like-minded individuals. I wonder what steps we can take to engage people who may not agree with us or who may think we are 'liberal crazies.'  Obviously, name-calling and labeling will have to be the first thing to eliminate, and remaining civil is key, but I'm wondering whether it's worth a try.
For the record--my mom is very open-minded.
Mary Beth Hertz is a Technology Teacher in North Philadelphia. She blogs at Philly Teacher and can be found on Twitter as @mbteach.

1 comment:

  1. The issue you bring up here is very interesting and may explain why sometimes we prefer our virtual conversations to the real ones we have at our working environments: because here we share with like-minded people and even if we disagree we don't have to see these persons day in day out.
    But I'm sure disagreements come up one way or another...