Political Polarization : A Darkside Of Social Media
Along with the rapid pace of technological development, the link between people's lives and social media is increasingly inseparable. The presence of various social media platforms such as Tiktok, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other platforms has revolutionized the way humans communicate, share information, and how to participate in public discussions. Social media has great potential for people who want to broaden their horizons and amplify the diversity of ideas and points of view. Unfortunately, the existence of these various social media platforms on the other hand also triggers a sharper polarization, especially in political years. It is not uncommon for this increasingly extreme political polarization to lead to intolerance and even acts of violence, both verbal and non-verbal.
The worsening political polarization in society due to the use of social media is influenced by various factors. One of the factors causing the worsening political polarization on social media is confirmation bias. Confirmation bias refers to our tendency to seek out and access information that supports our views, while ignoring or rejecting information that contradicts those views. This confirmation bias is reinforced by social media whose algorithms adjust the content shown to users based on their preferences. In this context, if social media users follow accounts or groups that share political views with them, social media algorithms will also tend to display content that is consistent with those views.
Social media algorithms that only display content according to user preferences create a closed circle of information that ends in the echo chamber phenomenon. Where social media will become an echo chamber where users are continuously only exposed to points of view that are in line with their own beliefs. As a result, their belief in certain opinions or points of view gets stronger and it becomes more difficult to open up to different perspectives.
Another factor that strengthens political polarization on social media is the wide open space for political extremism. Social media is wide open, including extreme political actors who often use provocative rhetoric and stir and take advantage of the emotions of social media users to get attention and support. Not infrequently, in order to strengthen their political narrative, political actors like this spread inaccurate information and sometimes even hoax information. This kind of thing is often effective in garnering support and increasing constituent awareness, especially from people who already share the same views.
Reflecting on past democratic parties, symptoms of this kind of condition are already visible in Indonesia. Social media has become an important channel in gathering political support. However, the presence of political extremism on social media, which spreads inaccurate news and even hoaxes to strengthen the narrative, has further widened the gap between society. Even during the last series of democratic parties, we often heard of persecution just because of different political choices. This is of course very unfortunate to happen in the midst of a country which is known for its motto of diversity.
Social media is not the only factor contributing to political polarization. Other factors such as economic disagreements, distrust of institutions, and dissatisfaction with the government also play an important role in increasing political polarization. However, the existence of social media has provided a wide and easy space for people who want to share their views or amplify their political views, which in turn deepens political divisions.
Narrowing the gap
Political polarization isn't all that bad by nature. It allows people's political participation to increase, encourages people to become more politically aware, and can even stimulate the birth of various policy innovations. However, extreme political polarization is more dominant to have a negative impact. Extreme political polarization will divide society and undermine the spirit of unity. In addition, constructive communication will also decrease because people tend to only talk to others who share the same views. Furthermore, this extreme political polarization will result in political instability that interferes with policy making and implementation. As a result, other aspects will also feel the domino effect.
In order to prevent the worsening of political polarization in society which is sharpened by social media, a holistic approach is needed. One way is through the world of education. Through education, critical thinking skills in checking the correctness of information as well as awareness to listen to different perspectives can be honed. As is well known, currently social media users are faced with a sea of information, where valid information and hoaxes are mixed up and sometimes difficult to distinguish. This is where the role of education, especially digital literacy, is so that social media users are able to sort and select information. Through education too, awareness of diversity can continue to be grown. So that later social media users will not stutter about the different views that they find on the platform they use.
Another step that can be taken is improving the social media algorithm itself. In this case, social media platforms must continue to improve their algorithms, especially in topics related to the spread of political views. This is intended so that social media users are not trapped in a filter bubble that only strengthens their own beliefs. Social media platforms can develop algorithms that display information primarily related to more balanced political issues. Users can be introduced to information with different perspectives, as well as information that is more neutral and objective. Social media platforms can also be directed to promote content that encourages constructive discussion between users. Thus the communication deadlock can be solved,
Furthermore, efforts to overcome extreme political polarization on social media ultimately require joint collaboration between social media users, educators and also the companies that develop social media itself. A more balanced social media ecosystem can be realized if social media users have an awareness of the diversity of views and also good critical thinking skills when obtaining information. In this case the role of educators to raise awareness and critical thinking skills is crucial. On the other hand, the role of social media platforms is also very important to improve their algorithms so that users are not trapped in filter bubbles that reinforce confirmation bias and produce extreme political polarization. Only by concerted and thorough efforts, we can ensure that social media remains a beneficial platform in strengthening democracy and fostering healthy political dialogue.