Every once in a while, I would often find myself pitted in the middle of a debate on twitter. Usually, I don’t seem to be bothered by much of the debate topics, after all, it only adds to the variety and material that I later read up on. But one can at times be reflective of such discussions, and put serious thought on the reasoning behind the deliberations.
What strikes me most is the ease in which these discussions are later brought forward to the public. On the internet and with the varying ways in which discussions are connected together, people can consider themselves fortunate to have the readily available access to information. Now this might vary within different locations, but the enablement of which people are now capable of, is truly extraordinary.
That being said, it seems that nowadays its easier to bring up an opinion, than would have been previously possible. Discussions and deliberation of all kinds now take place in an arena which knows no time, boundary, nor limitations. That arena is cyberspace (or the internet).
While raising views and arguments to a public forum may seem to be both commendable and beneficial, as the intended roots towards such debates stem from the fact that arguments would at best be objective in nature. More often than not, they hold the seeds that would take even some of the most trivial discussions to areas of heightened extremes. The smallest of arguments can almost instantly bring about labels to individuals.
Whether or not either side wishes to be labelled or “pre-associated” to a particular side of a discussion, it is in many cases an inevitable reality. It would be easy for me to point out the cause as being either subjective tendencies or egotism within a discussion. But, I personally believe that much of it is related to the fact that while we use certain “interactive” media to bring forth our ideas and arguments, they are for the most part, two dimensional in nature.
Put simply, the tools we are using to communicate to one another can be considered somewhat linear mediums. The 3rd degree angle to any discussion is the first hand personal account of your interaction with that person. What I mean to say is: we are more likely to speak in a different tone to a person in front of us, as opposed to what we might have written to them (in a discussion forum). This lack of the human element to discussions within cyberspace is what causes many unwanted results to occur. They can include textual assaults, enraged feelings that would instantaneously appear, misinformation (or rumours), lack of focus to the originating topic, and others.
These might be the more extreme reactions to the points I’ve mentioned earlier, but much of these sometimes irrational behaviours are also further encouraged by the news bites, blogs and almost always biased sources that seek to further their opinion. It becomes a battle of ideas, where the participants have an almost unlimited amount of ammunition at their disposal. Both camps gather information, data and counter with the sole intent of having a reply or rebuttal ready to be used.
These debates “escalations” sometimes branch off to other participants and the grounds of neutrality virtually become impossible to come by. Furthermore, this leaves a bad taste to societies becoming more ‘virtual’.
As societies progress, so does this phenomenon of the polarization of ideas and views. It is as if the world has too much information for its own good. In the United States, the past 2 cabinet and presidential elections had seen a growing increase of extreme views on both sides being adopted and even included in political debates (Tea Party v/s Occupy Movements). In other countries, it’s not so much elections, but instability that is also further increasing the flames of these debates amongst people.
A good example of this would be the post revolution(s) Middle East.
Most of us have hailed the internet as being some beacon of hope, and that its limitless bounds further enabled us to do more. While it still is an important and critical part of our day to day lives (and will continue to do so), there’s still a lack of further understanding the social and psychological implications within a wired community. Its ignorance to the fact that the internet can (and most certainly does) condition minds and views.
Understanding this will help change approaches towards how we view things surrounding us, but more importantly help increase the presence of a middle ground in any discussion.