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As we have become ever more reliant on social media to connect and remain informed, we also fail to engage in face-to-face conversations that require us to read our counterparty’s reactions, see the impact of statements on others, gauge the tone of an argument and possibly nuance our replies. Social media lacks an emotional connection and allows people to be hurtful as if their on-screen counterparty is not actually a real person.


So, while global social media allows us to connect with people around the world it doesn’t turn us into neighbours and fellow citizens, unless we make a concentrated effort to achieve this.


The risk is that the internet and Social Media can therefore become an atomising form of public discourse. Unless carefully structured, online discussions can soon turn rude and vulgar. There is a lack of cross-party/idea dialogue and even within like- minded groups, true rational debate rarely happens.


The hope must be that we learn to reason together. Can we create, appreciate, and embrace true open access public debate and will this require us to move away from the existing platforms or adapt them to allow for multi-person structured argument?


As with most things in life, any change will likely be in response to a demand for that change. We must want things to change for the better and that will require a marked effort by everyone; both those wishing to engage in debate and those providing the platforms and means for those discussions.


But, at the root of things is a need to educate and teach the ability to debate. A skill that appears to have been lost to so many. This needs to start young, in our schools, and to be reinforced rather than supressed, during further education.


32 | ADMISI - The Ghost In The Machine | September/October 2018


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