It seemed to me that, when I was young, there were (in the UK), pretty much only 2 basic political parties, and which you voted for depended mainly on your economic situation, as you could be sure that the party on your side would do things for you. There was also an ‘in-between’ party for people who liked to sit on the fence. Things have changed massively in the last few years. Nowadays, people are much less likely to follow one party just because it’s what all their friends and family do, or because they were brought up to do that.
But, most people are heavily influenced nowadays by all sorts of things they read or hear. The most common sources are websites, news channels, and certain political groups.
And that’s bad.
Because: we don’t have a balanced view.
Social media has made it worse. We tend to socialise with people we like, in whom we have a lot in common, and who, therefore, tend to share similar views to us. In the real world, we often used to encounter people who had differing views on certain things. In social media, we tend only to get our own views reflected back to us.
If your main source is one newspaper, TV channel, political website or what your Facebook friends tell you, then, be assured that you are not seeing the arguments against that view.
And don’t even think that your source is unbiased – no-one can be totally unbiased if they are choosing what to edit, what to report, and what not to report, even if they try their hardest. The best you can hope for is a reasonable independence, and a promise to distinguish between editorial content and reporting.
Recently, some FB friends of mine have posted certain memes or comments on FB. In some cases, I believe that there might be some truth in the statements, in others, I disagree; but what I have done is the same – I have commented, trying to point out the fallacies in their arguments, or presenting the possibility of another viewpoint. It says a lot for people that this has been met with either (1) insults (2) people ‘standing by what I said’ without addressing the counter-argument or (3) swearing at me. I have even had it suggested that I should ‘unfriend’ them, or be ‘unfriended’ by them. It is precisely because I don’t want to live in a bubble of the same views reflected back to me that I haven’t unfriended them. Besides which, for someone to have made it into my FB friends list, they have to be someone more than just a mere acquaintance, and just because I disagree with them on one point doesn’t mean I no longer like them.
It is interesting to note that, in some of these posts, people have presumed that they know what my political view is without me telling them. If I comment about, say, the Lib-Dem’s support of the Conservative party’s austerity policy, people seem to immediately presume that I am: a Labour party supporter who voted to remain in the referendum, supports nationalisation of all our infrastructure, hates the US, .. and so on. Some of those things may be right, but why presume? Who I vote for in our atrociously unfair First Past The Post electoral system (and there you HAVE got a political viewpoint out of me) is not necessarily who I would like to vote for, nor necessarily the party that they represent. I live in a Conservative marginal seat. It had been a Labour seat for many years, but the sitting MP rested a bit too much on his laurels and was ousted last time. In my opinion, despite the area being a majority-leave-voting area, Brexit had nothing to do with it.
So what is my message as we move towards an election? Try to find out what the issues are. Try to find people with whom you disagree, as you may be surprised to find you change your mind. Try to ascertain what the best way of voting is for you to achieve the best result in your opinion. Vote accordingly. And encourage others (including those with whom you disagree) to do the same. And then all get together and go down the pub for a drink.