Commentary

Twitter Wants Balanced Brexit Debates - Shame Social Media Users Don't

Jack Dorsey has a point, doesn't he? Or, perhaps one might say he has a point but he's missing the bigger picture about how social media operates.

He wants more balance in political debate, but ultimately, do social media users want the same? A two-way dialogue, or a one-way thought-affirming publishing tool? Which is it?

The Telegraph reveals today Dorsey's feeling of sadness that in the EU referendum Twitter did not do more to balance up the debate. It allowed people who followed Leave accounts to wrap themselves up in a "filter bubble" that Twitter was implicated in. You know the kind of thing. You click on one group and then the suggestions for who (should be whom) to follow are all for similar groups. 

This leads to the "filter bubble" where people get to hear from people who think the same way and generally agree with one another, pumping out the same views and sharing content that agrees with them. 

We're all guilty of this. On Twitter I follow prominent politicians from different parties with differing views to try to counter this natural tendency, but it's a fleeting experience. On Facebook, where content seems to hang around a lot longer, one tends to have a mix of friends with varying views because people have not been added in quite the same "filter bubble" as Twitter. However, we all know who it is worthwhile sharing an opinion with and whose pals will just slap you down.

The thing is, I'm really not so sure that people are going to social media for reasoned debates with sharp minds. If you've ever crossed swords with anyone and their gang of followers who have an opposing opinion, you'll know what I mean. Anyone who doesn't agree with the jist of a debate in a thread is outed and ridiculed by the gang. People very rarely learn anything. 

In fact, if one thing changes, it is people's real-life openness to talk over issues. On social media, people form gangs and snarl at anyone who disagrees. It's the opposite of public debate. It's my tribe versus yours.

We've been sold a lie that social media is about a two-way dialogue when ultimately, it's a series of platforms for everyone to publish and hope to be adored. Can anyone ever claim to have shared an article about politics or published a view in the hope that they might receive a comment so compelling that they change their mind? 

Views are expressed and then shovels are handed out to pals so like-minded people can dig a trench and resist anyone who disagrees with the clan's thinking. 

It's interesting that Dorsey's honest confession of where he feels Twitter let down the UK public coincides with Facebook tightening rules so political ads have to say who they have been funded by. It's a coincidence that may clean up the platform a little, but will ultimately not change public opinion all that much.

Dorsey is right that Twitter puts a filter bubble around users. However, I would contend that this is exactly what they want. It's not a failing, but more of an affirmation.

1 comment about "Twitter Wants Balanced Brexit Debates - Shame Social Media Users Don't".
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  1. David Beck from Retired, October 16, 2018 at 11:42 a.m.

    Interesting that he thinks only the "Leave" side suffered this. Makes you wonder how sincere he is in calling this out. 

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