The interpersonal is political: unfriending to promote civic discourse on social media

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Despite the initial promise of social media platforms as a means of facilitating discourse on matters of civic discourse, in practice it has turned out to impair fruitful conversation on civic issues by a number of means. From self-isolation into echo chambers, to algorithmically supported filter bubbles, to widespread failure to engage politically owing to psychological phenomena like the ‘spiral of silence’, a variety of factors have been blamed. I argue that extant accounts overlook the importance of interpersonal relationships to sustaining quality civic discourse on social media. Drawing on an Aristotelian account of friendship with an emphasis on the value of interpersonal difference plus the influence of interactions on individual character, I argue that a common scapegoat for the failure of civic discourse online—the variety of “unfriend” disconnection tools offered on various platforms—actually show promise at promoting better-quality civic conversation and overcoming the obstacles present on social media platforms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-24
Number of pages10
JournalEthics and Information Technology
Volume22
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Civic discourse
  • Filter bubbles
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Social media

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