Parler and the echo chamber. I recently joined the new social media platform Parler. I already have active Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. So why add another platform to my already long list of social media platforms?
What Is Parler?
Parler was the brainchild of John Matze, and the platform launched in August of 2018. It’s meant to compete with Twitter. What makes Parler different from Twitter is that it boasts that you will not get censored, or have your account frozen. The idea is that if you post “fake news”, people will vet your statements and come to their own conclusion. The platform won’t make the decisions about what is true, false or “offensive”.
This is not to say there aren’t rules. You can’t post pornography. You can’t set up an account and impersonate someone else. There are no “fighting words” allowed. The somewhat tongue in cheek guidance is “If you wouldn’t say it on a crowded street in New York, then don’t say it on Parler”.
Why Do We Need Parler?
So why did we need yet another social media company? Many people on the existing platforms of Facebook and Twitter are constantly having their accounts frozen or blocked. The problem seems to be that anyone can report a post or tweet, and it will be blocked, many times without the respective companies even looking at the post. This tactic has been used to quiet dissenting opinions by unscrupulous people.
I’ve known several Christian apologists that have had their account blocked or frozen for simply responding to an already existing post. The original post is deemed ok, but the response to it gets censored. So the perception is there that certain viewpoints are being discriminated against.
As a consumer, having more choices is always better. People can decided for themselves which social media platforms to use. And the ones that meet the demands of its customers the best will succeed.
So that’s the positive spin on Parler. Now, for the negative aspect of this.
As I said earlier in the article, Parler has become attractive to conservatives that have had their message blocked or censored. In many cases, this is done not because of some dire threat, but simply because they hold an opposing viewpoint. This gets into some frightening territory.
David and I recently recorded a podcast where we discussed atheist Sam Harris. While we disagree with Harris on many points, we agreed with much of what he had to say on his own recent podcast on racial inequality in the United States.
Harris began his podcast by saying he was actually scared to record the show. He worried that all the evidence he was bringing to the table to support his view would be ignored. He also feared his show would get boycotted, or worse he would be shut down.
I can sympathize with Harris. There have been many posts here that I have been reluctant to post, simply because of the backlash it might cause. Those of us who do put ourselves out in a public way take risks. We post things that not everyone agrees with. Which is sort of the point of all this.
Free To Disagree
Luckily for us, all of the people that challenge our posts here at TMC have behaved well. They rarely resort to personal attacks, and I’ve never had to ban or block anyone. I welcome dissenting opinions. I don’t always have the time to engage with every post, but enjoy the time I do get to respond and dialogue with people.
Grappling with different ideas is becoming a lost art. We’ve been reduced to quick, one line “Gotcha” type interactions. Debate is not welcome. It’s not uncommon to see posts begin with “Either affirm my position, or don’t comment”.
Reading or listening to opposing views can only help us. It ultimately makes us think more clearly about our positions. And I have changed my mind before when offered compelling evidence. I think most people respond better to a rational discourse as opposed to being yelled at. When the yelling and name-calling start, defenses go up. People are more likely to become entrenched in their position rather than seriously consider other’s ideas.
Creating Echo Chambers
And this leads to my biggest fear as new social media platforms emerge. The idea that we are dividing into echo chambers. We’re going to wind up growing even further apart. One set of social media groups for you, one for me. People will sacrifice challenges for comfort. The feeling that my ideas must be right, because everyone I see agrees with me, will become more common.
I hope I’m wrong. But I don’t see any signs that I am. So while I see the need and the reasoning behind Parler, I would encourage everyone to maintain their presence on the other platforms as well. If you are banned or blocked, there isn’t much you can do. But if at all possible, be a beacon of light wherever you are. Make your case factually and graciously. And as you do, keep two points in mind.
We Are Christ’s Ambassadors. Act Like It.
First, every person we interact with is made in the image of God. Whether they believe that or not, we as Christians know it to be true. And as image bearers, we need to treat them as such. It is not easy to do this when insults are being hurled at you. And I have failed more than I would care to admit following this advice myself. But this is the respect we owe every human being.
Second, we are to love our enemies. Even harder, right? G.K Chesterton once said, “The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.” Holding to these two principles will not mean people will agree with, or even listen to us. But the results of our interactions are not always in our hands. How we conduct ourselves is. Let’s embrace new platforms, but avoid being stuck in echo chambers.
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