Exposure to ideas incongruent with one’s own ought to be one of the most important and interesting aspects of one’s life. I know that I enjoy conversing with people whose views might defy my own. I have friends who disagree with me about politics, religion, social structures, and, of course, football (I’m a Patriots fan, so that one is inevitable).
But far too many Americans rarely have constructive encounters with those who disagree with them about particular issues. There are a number of reasons why.
For starters, there’s Facebook and other social media sites. These websites enable us to personalize our news diet, thereby allowing us to engage in spectacularly bad examples of confirmation bias and information sorting. It causes fake news to spread like the plague.
Another issue is self-sorting. Simply put, liberals are moving to be with other liberals, and tend to have social circles composed mostly of other liberals. Conservatives, likewise, tend to live with and have social circles consisting of other conservatives. There even exists a company called ConservativeMove, which helps right-leaning people in states like California move to Texas. The problem with self-sorting is that it makes political divisions extremely rancorous.
Increasingly, Americans of different political leanings don’t speak to each other, don’t live with each other, and don’t date each other. If we want to tackle partisanship and polarization, perhaps we should begin with our social lives.