On Tribal Thinking in the Age of Social Media and its Affect on Me for Covington

Photo: John Duncan via YouTube
Photo: John Duncan via YouTube

I don’t discuss politics on social media. In fact last year I greatly reduced my social media consumption to avoid the proliferation of content that began to dominate it.

I’ve watched as the timeline of commentary has unfolded around the Covington Catholic controversy and have noticed how it has affected my thinking. Sure I’m already in a bubble based on my circle of friends and those I follow that help shape my thinking and reinforce my feelings but this situation felt a different as the story began to unfold. It has made me question both my assumptions and comfort level of continuing to consume blindly in my feed both from individuals and other trusted outlets.

Today I came across an article by Andrew Sullivan that I discuss below that struck me in a more general way around how I feel my circle, and in turn myself, feel like we’re just on autopilot now finding the negative to continue to justify our thinking while ignoring context, analysis, and many other factors simply to continue weaving the narrative that we’ve become comfortable with.

After reading the article I was going to just let my thoughts stay with me but then I realized that I had committed to myself at the beginning of the year to write more and in doing so shared that one of the things that has held me back has been fear.

“I too think that exposing more of my own thoughts without fear of judgement would remove obstacles that hold me back.”

I wrote this a few weeks ago

When the initial coverage and subsequent reaction to the Covington story broke I saw the outrage. It seemed so easy to condemn what happened and vilify the kids for their actions. I saw countless posts on social media each showing a greater level of disgust than the last.

Then a few days later I came across this article by Julie Irwin Zimmerman which discussed a longer version of the video that told much more of this story and brought a new light to the situation. She too had reacted with indignation at the initial reports of the incident but then as she learned more, realized it was more complicated and not as cut and dry as it first appeared.

“The story is a Rorschach test-tell me how you first reacted, and I can probably tell where you live, who you voted for in 2016, and your general take on a list of other issues.”

“If the Covington Catholic incident was a test, it’s one I failed-along with most others. Will we learn from it, or will we continue to roam social media, looking for the next outrage fix? Next time a story like this surfaces, I’ll try to sit it out until more facts have emerged.”

From the I Failed the Covington Catholic Test by Julie Irwin Zimmerman

So that brings me back to the article I read today by Andrew Sullivan titled The Abyss of Hate vs. Hate. In it he puts a spotlight on how the media downplayed the other aspects of the full event.

“To put it bluntly: They were 16-year-olds subjected to verbal racist assault by grown men; and then the kids were accused of being bigots. It just beggars belief that the same liberals who fret about “micro-aggressions” for 20-somethings were able to see 16-year-olds absorbing the worst racist garbage from religious bigots… and then express the desire to punch the kids in the face.

“How did this grotesque inversion of the truth become the central narrative for what seemed to be the entire class of elite journalists on Twitter? That’s the somewhat terrifying question.”

From The Abyss of Hate Versus Hate by Andrew Sullivan

Andrew goes on to cite several instances of the media’s skewed coverage of the incident. I then found the following sentiment eye-opening as well.

“What was so depressing to me about the Covington incident was how so many liberals felt comfortable taking a random teenager and, purely because of his race and gender, projected onto him all their resentments and hatred of “white men” in general.”

“This is the abyss of hate versus hate, tribe versus tribe. This is a moment when we can look at ourselves in the mirror of social media and see what we have become. Liberal democracy is being dismantled before our eyes by all of us.”

From The Abyss of Hate Versus Hate by Andrew Sullivan

This situation was very complicated with so many perspectives and I simply wanted to share my thoughts on just how social media and the circles we form really influence us and that isn’t always a good thing. I also felt that the news media did a disservice during this event helping stoke the angry fires without all the facts and knowing the full story.

It’s important to try and keep an open mind and continue having a curiosity to question what we see and hear. It’s easy and lazy to be quick to judge and leave the thinking to others as we scroll, tap, like, click, share and all the other gestures that are so easy and automatic for us in this age of social media.

I am taking what has transpired as something I will learn from and modify my behavior as a result. I’ve felt continuously negative emotions over the last year around politics. This situation made me think that I don’t want to continue to wallow and fuel those emotions. It’s important for me to continue keeping an open mind and not be driven by the narrow-thinking that continues to propel on both sides of the political landscape.

I also like the perspective that Joe Rogan brought to this situation contained in the quote I pulled below from his talk with Bari Weiss. Full video can be viewed here.

“I think its a very unique moment because it’s so public and it’s so prevalent It sort of embodies everthing that’s wrong with a lack of nuance and with people taking one side versus the other and sticking with it With not confronting their own personal biases With looking at these things through the yes of this is the enemy, I’m on the good side, they’re on the bad side, let’s get them.”

Joe Rogan’s thoughts on the Covington Incident

I also came across this video by the Washington Post which provides a summary capsule of the events that transpired with several interviews that is worth watching.

Featured photo courtesy of John Duncan via YouTube