How Facebook is Breeding a Country of Intolerance and Extremism – NOT Bringing Us Together

Can you figure out the next word in this series?
  • Good. Bad. Right. Wrong. Left. Right. Like. _____
moderate voice
Excellent! Now, let’s look at some numbers. (Quick caveat: this is quick math.)
  • The USA has an estimated population of 308 Million.
  • Facebook has 400 Million users world-wide.
    • 70% are outside of the US, leaving us with 120 Million Americans.
    • That’s darn near 40% of our population – or 2 out of every 5 Americans for those of you preferential to chewing gum commercials.
  • If we look at these by age ranges, I have a hunch that this ratio will creep closer to 50% – or 1 out of every 2 for those of us between the ages of 15 and 40.
    • If anyone can find Facebook data on US members by the same age groups, I’ll do the math.

Now let me go back to that word series. On one hand, I want to fill in “Dislike” and start on a rant of how Facebook is perpetuating the teenage fallacy that the world, choices and judgements are black and white. And that our opinions are facts. And there is no room for savoring chocolate or appreciating nuance. That there is only Like and Dislike.

On the other, Facebook has no Dislike button. So I can’t completely back that up, though living in America’s #2 hipster capital, Portland OR, I can begin to argue that the lack of an opinionated “Dislike” is encouraging apathy. Don’t agree with something? Eh, let it slide. No use in caring enough to disagree or debate.

In both hands is a rather scary phenomenon: nearly half of us Americans are being faced with a seemingly trivial choice more and more frequently every day: do we like something? There is no “kinda-like”, “kinda-think-is-funny”, “don’t like it, but curious where this is going”, “my condolences, i’d like to stay in the loop so i know you’re ok”, etc. (The folks over at buzzfeed have quite the range-ometer.)

After seeing more and more disturbing tea party videos where angry constituents blather on about the only 2 options we as Americans have, to LOVE our country and to HATE our country, I grow concerned that we’re teaching our youths and even ourselves to be intolerable. That there is no in between.

I’m not saying that I want to see 5 stars everywhere, but the simple task of rating engages our brain in a much different way than the simple yes or nothing. What would happen to our collective groupthink when we began practicing critical thinking and rational assessments on a daily basis rather than emotional extremism?

Possibly Related Reading: Culture of Intolerance: Chauvinism, Class, and Racism in the United States, by Mark Nathan Cohen. If anyone reading this has read this book or has any other recommendations on the topic, please let me know.


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