Space For Those Who Don’t Agree

Lisbon, March 2011Through the numerous jobs I do as both a journalist and an editor to help fund my own work here on this site, I end up editing many documents relating to new media and its significance.  Among the terms and theories that are frequently kicked around is the one about how through today’s social media applications and collective spaces on the web, like minded people can find each other and further develop their projects or networks. No doubt, this is happening and will continue to happen; yet while many celebrate this development, I’m left concerned and wondering about the flip side of this coin.

What will a world be like where for the most part like minded people find each other and communicate amongst themselves? Where you unfriend or ignore any person with an opinion that doesn’t match your own. How will future compromises and cooperation occur among people who have very different points of view about how the world works or should work?

In many ways this question has begun to be answered with every passing election in this decade.  In Europe for example, increasingly you hear about increase in votes for parties on the fringe or on extreme opposite opinions from each other.  The middle ground or voices that express something less pronounced or less strict positions are losing ground (of course in many cases they might also deserve it for a poor track record).

Despite the power of the internet to educate and connect people, and the tools that have made this all possible, the answer to the aforementioned question has not emerged.  You can surely follow people on twitter that you agree with just as well as you can follow people you disagree with, but do we really do both? Or do we unfollow the person who’s opinion we can’t stand.  After that, we may never have to hear from them and can proceed with communicating with the more pleasant people we tend to agree with.

Of course this is not the same story throughout the internet. There are plenty of people, who disagree on things, listening and communicating with each other.  But as systems of social networking become more refined, catering to what you like and who you like, how do we keep the things we don’t like -but might need to live alongside, from being ignored. Are all the great developments for sharing information making sure that NON likeminded people are encouraged (or required!) to keep listening to each other? Perhaps they should, since we do still live on this earth together, and ignoring each other continues to have terrible side effects.


  1. March 25, 2011

    You have a point. Often my only exposure to the other side is from my high school friends on Facebook.

    Check out Cass Sunstein’s idea of echo chambers. He’s update his famous title – now available in an e-book version! Yippee!

    • bicyclemark
      March 27, 2011

      hmm I need me an ebooky device. this all started as I was reading a proposal for a new online community for “professionals to find likeminded people around the world” and I thought… this again?

  2. Sara
    March 25, 2011

    I understand what you mean, but I don’t think this is the case. People are not isolated, they do not live just on the Internet. Therefore, in society people see and hear ‘other-minded’ people everywhere; from doing groceries to on their job/study. And what about billboards, radio, tv, .. Furthermore, I do not think anybody has a friend who thinks exactly the same on éverything. So even if a person has sort of like-minded friends, they still get to hear different ideas from them.

    And if a person is so ignorant not to see any other opinion, I am afraid you cannot blame the media..

    • bicyclemark
      March 27, 2011

      Hey Sara.. actually Im blaming new application on the internet and how theyre presented or designed often for this type of interaction.. Good point about offline life… we should hang on to that! But if you take TV in fact, look at the US example, people actually watch channels that reflect the opinions they like. Ive seen it very often with the co-called right and left.. foxnews for example.. youll find people who swear by it.

  3. Roderick
    March 27, 2011

    You put your finger on the weak spot of Internet and Twitter. Nice 😉

    I think there is distinction between the organizing principle Internet has and the engaging into discussions. Because, Internet can very well bring people togehter, with probably the same interests. But, when you look at different news sites, there is also a lot of discussions going on. With TV, I admit there is not a lot of room for discussion. You can yell at the TV, I admit, but on Internet, there is always someone who can yell back.
    I agree with the fact, that when there is politically speaking polarization, the people who find themselves within these marges, are probably not very open for a different voice.

    • bicyclemark
      March 27, 2011

      Hi Roderick. It does leave me curious about the future.. I know there are forums and sites now where non likeminded people meet and talk, but I wonder if after the facebook style way of relating to each other, maybe next generation apps can make strides in connecting non-agreeing people in a useful way.

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