How does Facebook increase political animosity and polarization?, with Jaime Settle

In this episode of the People Who Read People podcast, I interview Jaime Settle, a political scientist and professor at William and Mary. She is the author of Frenemies: How Social Media Polarizes America. In that book, she summarizes thinking on American political polarization and describes the research she’s done, which shows that Facebook likely increases “psychological” or perceived political polarization, in the form of Facebook users becoming increasingly antagonistic towards members of the opposite political party.

I talk to Dr. Settle about what the psychological pathways are behind how social media polarizes us, what the downsides of extreme political polarization are, and what we can all do to decrease the most dangerous forms of this polarization.

Links to this episode:

Topics discussed include:

  • Are there inherent aspects to internet communication that are likely to increase polarization, even apart from specific product feature choices?
  • What is the pathway of how Facebook users (or other social media users) become more aware of others’ political views and more judgmental of them?
  • What are the psychological tendencies humans have that are activated by social media?
  • How does the idea that social media increases polarization relate to work by Levi Boxell et al that shows that older Americans are the most polarized?
  • How does this idea relate to contact theory, which posits that interactions between groups can decrease group-associated animosity?
  • How does the out-group homogeneity effect play a role in polarization?
  • What can we all do to bring down political animosity?

Related resources: