In this day and age, we are swamped by social media. Most people are subscribed to more than one site, and will spend hours perusing them through-out the day. In fact “Business Insider” has calculated that a millennial will likely spend five years and four months of their lives on social media. The original social site “Six Degrees” was set up in 1997, the name came from the idea put forward by writer Frigyes Karinthy, that if you take any two people in the word, you could connect them via a chain of six people, who knew one another. Now the Department of Mathematics, at Cornell University, says with social media this number is now 3.57 degrees of separation… Social media is clearly a powerful tool to connect. However, “with great power, comes great responsibility”- Amazing fantasy #15.
Although today we are more connected to one another, we are considered to as polarized as ever, if not more so. Why? Surely this new-found connectivity should aid idea transfer not hinder it? Well it comes down to how we form communities online, and interact with one another from behind our keyboard.
Often on sites like Facebook, you will see doom threads, where one person has said something that goes against the grain, and offended some group’s beliefs, and ideology. The group will leap to defend itself, bombarding that person with the groups thoughts on the matter, telling them why they are wrong, and berating them for their comments.
Recently I saw a group of LGBTQ+ advocates swarm one rather conservative woman, labeling her a homophobe and sexist for her comments made against same-sex marriage. They wrote reels and reels on why she was wrong, why she needed to “get with the times”, but not one comment invited her in to have a conversation, any questions the group had were only posed to catch her out, and give the group more ammunition.
Admittedly this happens both on the right and the left of the political spectrum. Conservatives will often gather round Corbyn-ites to tell them why socialism doesn’t work, harassing them for being “freeloaders”.
This style of political activism is referred to as a call out, a tool often used by the liberal left to call out people publicly for being “oppressive” or “backwards”, or by conservatives to tell others why their views are not possible. They are inherently toxic to our online and real world communities, and to the actual nature of social progress. Social media makes it easy to hide away behind a keyboard, and fight the good fight, especially when you have a group backing you, but how does this actually help you to move a person towards your view of thinking? We are all naturally tribal, it is what has kept us safe for millennia, so instinctively when we see another tribe, with views different to ours, we will likely become guarded. Now when this tribe attacks us, we are going to become defensive, in a fight or flight style reaction. The brain protects our sense of identity, so will likely deflect different points of view, meaning even the most reasonable of ideas, seem alien. So, when you bombard a person for their point of view, or beliefs, they are going to become defensive, and they are not going to change. In fact, it is detrimental to the view of progress, all the call out does is create more polarization, and creates closeted conservatives, or liberals who don’t strive to upset the status quo. This idea can be seen through the hosts of elections the west has seen in the last year, when people were asked who they were going to vote for, they gave the answer they think the asker wants to hear, not who they actually will vote for. Ivan Massow, one of last years London mayoral candidates, claimed “Coming out as Tory was harder than revealing I’m gay.” This is partly down to Call Out culture, which doesn’t lead to healthy exchanges of ideologies. Call outs isolate the individual, and leads to there beliefs being further embedded.
The “Call In” is a much more effective tool at facilitating progress. This is where the two sides speak person to person, one to one either by private message, or even better, in the flesh! It by-passes our instinctive tribal nature, as it looks for ways we are the same, not different, giving the sense you are both apart of the one group. This stops either of your automatic defense mechanisms flaring up. We all know we may not be right, but what we have to do is not be afraid to admit to this, this’ll show others it’s safe to do so, keeping people more open minded. Doing this allows you to talk, to discuss your beliefs, where they come from, where they are rooted, in a healthy conversation.
You have to accept that you personally are not able to change somebodies mind, that can only be done by them. But, what you can do is introduce them to a new line of thought, so they can make their mind up on what they truly believe.
The Call Out is used by the arm chair social justice warriors, the Gladiators of what they believe is right. Gladiator not because they are powerful, but because often it is seen as a game, or something for entertainment.
The Call In method? It can be used to create bridges; to combat the growing polarization we see around us. No matter what you believe in, if you are on the right or on the left, you must agree you should try to work with people, to bring them in, not push them out.
If you would like to look at more information on how we process different beliefs have a look at some of these awesome pieces and studies:
When Corrections Fail: The Persistence of Political Misperceptions