Blog Entry #2: The Public Sphere in Contemporary America

I definitely believe that the rise of social media in recent years has contributed to the increased political polarization and conflict in contemporary America and that they can in turn function as public spheres.  I find it extremely interesting to observe how an individual's personality and behavior differ between in-person and online platforms.  From personal observation, it seems to me that people feel more comfortable expressing themselves and their true thoughts/feelings online, from behind the safety of a screen, where they can delete the post, close the app, or shut down the computer if things become too uncomfortable.  I've seen people be truly ugly to one another online (especially when it comes to our current political climate) in ways that they typically wouldn't be face-to-face; the online platform emboldens people and in a way, allows them to dehumanize the person or people on the other side of the argument.  If they're not really, physically present, it seems easier to disregard them as real human beings.

In some ways, however, the prevalence of social media and its contribution to the multiplicity of public spheres is a positive thing.  It allows for the nearly instant dissemination of ideas and for the occurrence of public discourse at any given time about any given topic with people from any given place in the world.  I have yet to see anyone change their political views by engaging in public discourse on Facebook, but I'm sure it can happen.  At least in these conversations you sometimes see people sharing sources (some reliable, some not so much) to support their stances and you see others who are inspired to form groups and take action (think of the women's marches earlier this year).


  1. Stefany,

    I completely agree that many people are far more comfortable expressing their thoughts/feeling online, and also that I've never seen people change their views via public discourse on social media, even though in theory it could be possible. Even consider things like dating apps, and how a lot of people would rather rely on them than have to initiate conversation face-to-face. It seems to me societal issue, that people have become that much more comfortable communicating online that would actually rather do that than have to talk in person where you have to think on your feet, and can't delete anything, or shut off your computer as you were saying. This then has bled into public discourse, which explains the heated political arguments that frequent social media. I respect peoples' free speech to have them, but I can also use my own free speech to say that while they shouldn't be censored, they also rarely ever accomplish anything meaningful.

  2. I completely understand where you are coming from Stefany. It amazes me how the online platform creates such bold and blatant people. People are rude in their comments and common courtesy is thrown out of the window all because there is no one to manage or censor what is said and people feel that no negative consequences can come to them. These online forums pose as public spheres in today's society but I feel in some ways it is very counterproductive to the original idea of what should be accomplished in a public sphere. Yes, people who maybe would not have been given the opportunity to express their views or voice their concerns, are given that chance to speak up in online public forums, but could we say that this is a true representation of the public if people exhibit completely opposite ideas and personalities online that what they do face to face.


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