Sunday, February 25, 2024

Depolarizing America: Take a walk in someone’s ideological shoes

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Featured Photo by Kailee Shores

Story by Kailee Shores

I’m a member of Gen Z. The generation of TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, technology and all the other things associated with young people nowadays.

But I am also a member of Gen Z, the generation that has been raised in an era of American life where people are more polarized than ever. It is all we have ever known.

The earliest president I remember is Obama. I remember his first election, but nothing from before. My earliest memories of political discussions were on bus 00-29, in seat number six, on the ride to and from middle school. Kids shout how much they hated Obama, and I silently questioned, “Why? What has he ever done wrong?” 

Instead of posing the question out loud, I joined the chorus to fit in. That’s all any of us were doing. If we weren’t echoing our parents’ views, we were parroting those who were echoing their parents.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve watched those friends from the bus grow up and develop their own opinions, whether those are the same as they were back then or not. I’ve also watched them become so deeply entrenched in those opinions that they become impossible to hold a conversation with, even if I do agree with them.

We all have someone in our lives like this; someone who has fallen victim to online conspiracies, whether it be an older generation on Facebook or younger on TikTok. If you don’t know someone like this, it is entirely possible that you are that person for the people around you.

You start putting restrictions on the length of time you talk to that person, or stop calling at all, because you know eventually you will get into a discussion that will inevitably lead to one of you angrily hanging up the phone and feeling miserable for the rest of the day.

Social media can do great things for society. It can connect us to people with cultures and customs we would otherwise never be exposed to, but it can also become an echo chamber. You can pigeonhole yourself into a corner of social media where you only hear from people who were raised similarly, have the same religious beliefs and political ideologies as you. While having opinions and listening to trusted voices is valid, the danger comes when you unknowingly close yourself off from alternative ideas.

The spiral can happen before you know it. On sites such as TikTok and Youtube, algorithms quickly figure out the videos you agree with most based on how much you interact with each post and adapt to keep feeding you things it thinks you will enjoy. Falling into this sort of trap happens before you realize it because you are mindlessly liking (or not liking, which is just as important) videos that are presented to you until you are in a completely isolated space.

The great experiment of democracy comes crashing down when its people no longer listen to each other and instead see one another as larger than life ideas and opinions that may or may not be an accurate representation.

I am not my opinions. I am a person, with a story, whose experiences have shaped her opinions. I only ask that you be willing to listen to my story so you may better understand my opinions, and in return, I will do the same for you.

This is the only way we can fix a broken America.

Kailee Shores is the News Editor and a Columnist for MTSU Sidelines.

To contact News Editor Kailee Shores and Assistant News Editor Alyssa Williams, email newseditor@mtsusidelines.com.

For more news, visit www.mtsusidelines.com, or follow us on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines or on Twitter and Instagram at @mtsusidelines.

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