Unpublished: Liturgies of Polarization

Let me describe what I'll call liturgies of polarization.

Imagine there is a contentious issue X out there. It can be a religious issue, a moral issue, a political issue. And when this issue gets raised people immediately fall into two polarized debating teams, Team A and Team B.

The liturgy of polarization starts when one team member floats a clear and strong defense of their view, often with criticism about the other team. At that point, with the gauntlet thrown, everyone chooses up sides on social media and argues their team's position. Sometimes this is done with snark and mean-spiritedness and sometimes with reason and respect. Regardless, the choosing up sides and dueling is the inexorable and inevitable outcome.

Which is why I'm calling all this a liturgy. A ritualistic repetition about what we value most deeply, a ritual that cognitively, emotionally and behaviorally reinforces and deepens those values.

This is why I'm always ambivalent about kicking off one of these liturgies. Because if I really do think one side of a debate is wrong then articulating the opposite won't change minds. It will only kick off the liturgy of choosing sides and defending them which will, ultimately, ritualistically reinforce and deepen the views in question. Which is exactly what I don't want to do. Instead initiating a conversation or a debate what I'm actually doing is everyone to worship. And by the time the worship service is over--once everyone has finished all their commenting, tweeting and posting--we've accomplishing what worship accomplishes--a deeper love for the position we were defending.

Which makes me wonder if this is one of the reasons why social media is making us more and more polarized. I wonder if these liturgies of polarization aren't pulling us further and further away from each other, each round of outrage creating deeper and deeper emotional divides.

--an unpublished post speculating about how social media debates are forming and shaping us

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