Can we end polarization?
Give your opinion
This week we have the partnership of Iván Sánchez Marañón, 4th year student of the Degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE). In his article he reflects on polarization, the different actors involved in it and how to take the path to reverse it.
Polarization - that is, the division of society into two groups that are increasingly opposed to each other on different political, social and economic issues -is a very complex phenomenon involving various actors, such as politicians, the citizenry itself, social networks and the traditional media. Of all of them, the two most responsible for polarization are the media and digital platforms. At the same time, both can play an important role in solving the issue.
Firstly, social networks have contributed to polarization: on the one hand, they have led to an increase in the supply of information, thus fragmenting the audience and reducing the role moderator of the traditional media (in extreme cases, giving rise to the well-known echo chambers); on the other hand, their algorithms are designed in such a way as to encourage Username to give preference to the affective dimension over the rational one. Similarly, the media are also partly to blame in this matter, since, often prioritizing economic profit, they have ended up neglecting rigor and truth, treating politics as if it were a spectacle. As a consequence, the traditional media have also ended up losing their authority and their ability to guide citizens.
For all of the above, it is necessary for both actors to get involved in order to reverse the polarization in which we find ourselves. It is up to the digital platforms to redesign their algorithms so as to mitigate their polarizing and emotional tendency: preventing the spread of false news, exposing Username to plural opinions and establishing instructions so that users can make a civic use and manager of the platforms. On the other hand, it is necessary that the media know how to impose themselves on the dictates of economic profit and assume their social responsibility, recovering quality and rigor, as well as providing the space for public discussion on our common problems.
All these measures are necessary in order to embark on the path towards depolarization. However, it is complicated for this to be achieved because, in order to do so, it is necessary to move away -to a certain extent- from the pursuit of power and money. And this is enormously difficult because it is precisely this pursuit of money and power by the media and digital platforms that has brought us this far. To make matters worse, if these measures were to be carried out, it would not guarantee the end of polarization. This is because, as we mentioned at the beginning, there are several actors behind the issue. As much as social networks and traditional media work to end the problem, this effort would be in vain if politicians and citizens do not do their part.
We cannot, therefore, underestimate the weight that citizens have in ending polarization. First, because we must not forget that both digital platforms and traditional media depend on us economically: just as politicians depend on our vote to be elected, they depend on our consumption of their content to be profitable. This means that it is in our power to punish those who make use of clickbait, demagoguery and disinformation, as well as to reward those who bet on rigor, truth and professionalism. And, secondly, if we have reached where we are, it is also because we have neglected the public good as citizens and have allowed the particular interests of the parties to prevail over the common good. Therefore, in order to reverse polarization, it is necessary to recover concern for the public good and be willing to sit down and dialogue with those who think differently from us. Otherwise, polarization will remain at its current worrying levels.
In conclusion, the media and digital platforms can play a role core topic to start depolarization, although it is essential that politicians and citizens also commit to this process. It will therefore be a difficult path, but one that will be worth the effort.
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