What is it that is making us so divided in the modern day?
Let me give you an example. As the farmer protests continue across the country, for some reason, I have come across two types of people. 1) who is convinced that these aren’t actual farmers protesting but a political conspiracy and 2) who are so certain that the demands of the farmers are just that anything less than complete agreement would be a failure.
I was scrolling through Facebook the other day when I saw a person sharing the video of an ambulance trying to get through a crowd as, “A real farmer wouldn’t stop an ambulance. These people cannot be real farmers.” Interestingly, just a few scrolls of the thumb later, I ran into another video with the caption, “Farmers make way for an ambulance to go through. This is real humanity.”
How is it possible that there are people who are living in completely different version of reality?
How is it that we cannot even agree on who are the people we see on the roads currently?
The uncomfortable truth, which we have been ignoring for too long, is that something very fundamental has changed about how we interact with the world today; something which was exasperated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
We see the world through social media now, not through our own eyes.
It might seem far-fetched but when you think about it, the answer is quite obvious. Earlier, say in 2005 or before that, the things that we knew and learned were either from those close to us, people we trusted or from the media. No matter how much we disliked something being real, like stories of corruption, rape, murder, we couldn’t escape them or spin them away because they were the real depictions of life. No matter how much a person thought that the earth was flat or that vaccines caused autism, they always knew that they couldn’t afford to be very vocal about it lest they be completely outcast from their society.
That filter doesn’t exist anymore.
The village idiot who used to be ignored for his ramblings now has a community of village idiots, each egging the other on convinced that they are the ones who are the real geniuses.
Something Facebook and Twitter were supposed to offer us was a sense of community. What we failed to realize was that this sense of community could be enjoyed by anyone, whether they believe that the earth is flat, vaccines are a hoax or that the COVID-19 pandemic is not that bad. You can find people from across the globe agreeing with you that the earth is flat and there is nothing you can say or do that would convince them otherwise.
Something similar has happened with our political scenario as well.
You can find people who will agree with everything you say and end up getting trapped in an echo-chamber. Facebook pushes this chamber on you as a means to keep you happy. The more you interact with people who interact with you, the happier you are, the longer you stay on Facebook, the longer you see their ads and more the money they make.
It is quite a dystopian world we live in today if I am going to be honest with you. People have found others who agree with almost everything they say. It should give us comfort but, yet, it is also making us more and more upset. That’s because we are now in a position where even the slightest of disagreement may be seen as a position of ‘the other side’.
The constant narrative you see on social media today is that ‘They’ are coming for you, ‘they’ want to destroy your way of life, ‘they’ want to kill you and subjugate you. It is all us-vs-them. Who is this ‘them’? No one knows.
The problem with staying with people who agree with everything you think and say is, you end up thinking that anyone who differs even slightly is wrong and those who disagree a lot must definitely be your enemies, not just political enemies, but existential ones.
And this is where our division comes from. We don’t talk to each other anymore. We think those that disagree with us are evil. We follow cults of personality instead of our own thoughts. We believe in what we want to instead of what is real.
How long can this continue?
How long can we live in society so divided where we cannot even agree on the most basic of things?
Social media has gotten us used to seeing things that make us feel good and those that confirm our biases but is it time we started looking out for ourselves? Are we comfortable enough to be uncomfortable right now?
I don’t think we are. Right now, we are slaves of the social media algorithms that continuously feed us what we want to read and we will eat each other up before we stop doing that.