With the election of Donald Trump, journalists and scholars alike have expressed concern for a very real and growing threat of nuclear war. It appears, however, that a bloodless war has already begun, and is being fought from computer keyboards across America: the social media war.
Liberal and conservative America have grown increasingly polarized for quite some time. However, it’s already safe to say that Trump is one of the most divisive presidents in American history. His first weeks in office are pushing limits on what is being shared and said on social media.
These days, it is nearly impossible to scroll through Facebook, Instagram or Twitter without coming across a political post, either what Trump has done, or efforts against his actions. Thousands upon thousands of political tweets, memes, articles, status updates, GIFs, videos, events and other tidbits float through our precious newsfeeds. What happened to viral cat videos and Buzzfeed quizzes on which “Friends” character you would be?!
Here’s what’s happening: People are more fired up than ever on both sides of the political spectrum. With social media now an integrated part of our lives, we are using it as a primary outlet to express the seemingly endless spectrum of emotions invoked by Trump’s presidency: contentment and resentment, celebration and frustration, hope and fear.
In some instances, Facebook and other social media sites have become an all-out digital battlefield. It is common to see a single status populated by dozens of comments, sometimes several paragraphs long, both sides relentlessly arguing their respective points. Some online debates remain civil, mature and grounded by factual evidence. Others spiral into exchanges of unfounded arguments, pettiness, and personal attacks.
On the other side of the coin, many have chosen to disengage from debate by keeping quiet while scrolling, decreasing screentime, deleting social media applications or, ever more often, “de-friending” those on the opposite side. Instances of de-friending and/or blocking are being reported frequently by social media users across platforms. Such seemingly harsh decisions might be attributed to growing sensitivity levels and, more importantly, the idea that no matter the effort, it is nearly impossible to change someone’s mind.
Social media debates and instances of “de-friending” are indicative of a real-life phenomenon: an ever-more divided country whose people cannot seem to find common ground. Whether on the left or the right, everyone appears consumed by the dramatic changes taking place in our government.
This could mean one of two things: Either our government officials are having a field day in Washington while we knock each other senseless, or it could be a sign that the American people are striving for greater ownership of their government.