I’m not ashamed to admit that I spend a lot of time on my phone — likely too much, but that’s neither here nor there. The bulk of my time is spent on social media, particularly Twitter, where I find myself getting a lot of information about the world — perhaps an alarming amount. Twitter often functions as a news source, and it keeps me particularly up to date when it comes to politics.
Generally, I don’t think this is a bad thing. Twitter is great. I love political tweets. But what I think can be dangerous is when people look to Twitter as their main outlet for discourse.
Because Twitter is a place where one can write whatever comes to mind, it’s no surprise that discussions of politics are particularly prevalent. As such, I’ve consumed a whole lot of tweets about politics, and I think it’s safe to say that they’ve probably influenced my political beliefs to a degree. Over time, I’ve found politics-focused accounts I like and agree with, and followed them to keep up to date on the general happenings of the world.
It’s fine to talk to other Twitter users about the happenings of the world, but I think it’s often forgotten that Twitter isn’t there to foster bipartisan discussion. There are targeted algorithms that show you tweets that you’re likely to agree with; many people tend to follow people they share the same views as, and it’s rare to find people liking tweets that don’t align with their thoughts.
The result of this tends to be an echo chamber. The majority of information you’re exposed to supports your beliefs rather than challenges them, which is harmful. Rather than honing our own ideals because people point out their flaws, people just agree with you, maybe liking or retweeting your tweet, and that’s the end of discussion.
I’ve even seen a lot of disagreement between people who really agree, probably because they’re sick of agreeing. I often see people making more and more radical claims just to seem more “woke” or politically aware and shaming others who share basically the same beliefs for the sake of boosting their own egos. When you limit your interactions with people you actually disagree with, you end up with division among those you agree with. More often than not, no one benefits.
Ultimately, I think the abundance of information we consume from social media rather than traditional news sources is probably a good thing. The level of accessibility means that learning about current events is unavoidable if you’re on your phone, which most younger people are. We can really thank social media for playing a role in keeping Gen Z really engaged; without Instagram and Twitter, I don’t think our generation would be nearly as politically active as it is.
With that being said, as we approach the election, it’s important for us to be cognizant of the fact that social media is just that: social. It’s not meant to be an unbiased source of reporting and should not be your sole source of information. Your beliefs and ideologies can be influenced by what other people say, of course, but a few tweets should not be the basis of your world view.
So keep tweeting. But as you do so, make a concentrated effort to diversify the media you consume and read about politics in a format longer than 240 characters. I promise you’ll learn a lot more.
Emma Mansour SC ’24 is from Wilmette, Illinois. She enjoys spending time with friends, watching movies, exploring California and writing (obviously).