I do not live in a political bubble. I have a 58% republican area, so I see a fair share of both parties in my neighborhood. I was surprised by how even it was though, because I do not really see a lot of Biden signs, and Trump flags seem to be everywhere. I think this map made me realize how lucky I am to be in a blended environment like I am, and I think that being in a political bubble can divide people, and bring them into a mob mentality.
The Danger of Echo Chambers
To say we live in a political bubble is an understatement. With the rapid expanse of social media and the rapid decline of unbiased information, it is very easy to surround yourself with one-sided ideas and ideologies without even knowing the opposition’s stance. A new concept provided by many social media is recommending similar content with the same opinion, and never showing the opposition, some examples being YouTube and Instagram. This can give people very slanted information, which can lead to a very biased position and a dangerous falsehood of being correct. Being a very argument-oriented person, I know that not knowing where the other side comes from is a very big weakness … Please educate yourself on both sides of a topic before you make a claim, political or not.
I live in a political bubble. 75% of my neighbors are Democrats, and all of my family and extended family is Democratic. I have never once spoken to someone who has voted for Trump. I have only spoken to a Republican 5 years ago who said at the time that Trump did not represent the Republican Party, which has now changed of course. I have never spoken to anyone who chose to support Trump. I have heard “Trump bad,” “Hillary bad,” “Biden bad,” and I have also heard “Us Americans are more alike than we are different in our politics.” If that is true, then according to the article, social forces seem to be incentivized to create division within our society (the economic incentives of media outlets seem to benefit from this as well), and that has helped contribute to the giant political mess we are in right now where both voters and politicians cannot speak across the aisle.
Part of the problem might also be misinformation as well, where due to new media and social media being incredibly partisan, American voters can live in alternate realities online induced by political affiliations, group identity, and discrete online communities (The Social Dilemma) that can potentially lead to people fervently believing in crazy stuff like white supremacy or communism. I think that in order to combat political polarization, I need to understand the lives and stories of Republicans through great investigative journaling, nonpartisan social media, or just engaging with people in my community.
I feel that we should be very concerned about our growing political bubbles. The riot at the capitol on January 6 should be direct evidence that we have an issue. People are becoming polarized because they are in a bubble, both physically and socially. Most cities and rural areas are in bubbles, and when you go online, these bubbles stay. Social media sites purposely recommend and highlight posts from accounts that are politically aligned with you. This isolation prevents people from seeing those with different opinions than them in any way but negatively. And this is perfectly justifiable; when all you see is people who think like you, people who see differently just seem to be stupid. How could they possibly think that when everything you’ve seen shows that they are wrong?
The Challenge of Popping Our Political Bubbles
My town is incredibly diverse when it comes to political viewpoints, yet people still tend to live in a bubble. Part of my town is majority conservative, while other parts are mainly liberal. This political diversity should help people living in my area break outside their bubble, but it does the opposite. Despite the diversity, my town divides itself into bubbles and people separate themselves based on politics. I, too, am sometimes guilty of this. For me, politics is more than just red and blue. I am a person of color and an immigrant, so a political debate can sometimes feel like a debate on my identity. My strong viewpoints often make me reluctant to break my bubble.
However, these bubbles only deepen the divide instead of encouraging unity and will only further the polarization that is plaguing our country. In order to effectively make change, we must be able to have meaningful discourse with people from different parties. One of the main problems preventing people from popping their bubbles, is that it feels hard to converse with someone whose ideals do not morally align with theirs. However, I’ve learned that popping your bubble doesn’t mean disregarding your moral values. It just requires you to open-mindedly listen to another viewpoint. By simply listening to others, we can bring forth unity rather than furthering the divide. That is why I am working towards popping my bubble, and encourage others to as well.