The Concept of the Public Sphere

Another paper I wrote for sociology. I always found Facebook to be a mix of annoying and fascinating.

Journal Entry 8

The problem with Habermas’s concept of the public sphere is that he believed it was a place where people could come together and solve problems, but most social media sites are designed for those who talk and assume, not those who listen. People declare without proof, accept without research, and assume that every post a person shares represents their personal viewpoint. Without the ability or desire to listen, there is nothing but sound and fury.

There is a vast difference between what I see on the different sites, however. As a hobby, I study the arguments and post things that I find interesting. The most common argument I have is people making assumptions about my views based on what I post. I always tell them, “if I write it, it’s my viewpoint, if I share it I just find it interesting.” Sometimes that means I post pro and anti-gun arguments, just because I find the argument fascinating. I rarely post things that are blatantly insulting because they’re boring. I never really defend either side, and I find my own reaction to posts and people’s reactions to them the most interesting of all. The stress of posting something that I know will cause a reaction and the desire not to upset people is a strong drive, somehow more difficult when it is written than when it is just spoken. You can see the range of your words, but you have no idea how far a post will go.

The assumptions people make are almost inherent in facebook. I have read articles about the ability of facebook to identify people who are suicidal by the pattern of what they post (Bowman, 2015). The program can identify divorce, orphans, death in the family, and a number of other conditions that people are not aware they are showing, not to mention obvious things like political affiliation (Manjoo, 2015). The program predicts who you are and responds to it, or can be used for social experiments on a mass scale not available to normal researchers.

With all of these inherent flaws, Facebook is a very poor location for people to share ideas and expect to change anyone’s mind or find any middle ground between groups. Twitter is even worse, with it’s 140 character limit, making it only useful for quick comments with no space for any citation or support, as well as an endless variety of trolls and extremists. With such a small space, it’s more useful for snide comments, advertisements, and to rally people who already agree with you than it is to find a reasonable answer to any problems.

When you start moving into the level of blogs, there is much more potential for discussion and argument. People can post articles, photos, videos, and anything else they want to support their arguments. While some people use it for advertising, it is more often used to support a cause or to share life experiences. When people invest the time to see different viewpoints and ideas there is the potential for growth and sharing of ideas. People can find a middle ground, and the public sphere can reach a common judgment at times. The ability to discuss a topic exists in all these mediums, but it is more often a cage of screaming monkeys than a proper discussion or debate.

This entry was posted in 2015-11, Guadalajara and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Concept of the Public Sphere

  1. Mom says:

    No wonder you got an ‘A’. That is a seriously important concept about social media.


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