5 takeaways: Myiah Hutchens, Ph.D.

At July’s professional development meeting, Myiah Hutchens, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Public Relations at the University of Florida, presented: “How communication functions in democratic processes.”

The 5 takeaways from her presentation include:

  1. Though counterintuitive, research shows Facebook does not appear to be facilitating filter bubbles or making polarization worse. Exposure to incivility does not in and of itself lead to negative outcomes.
  2. Our relationship between two things is never static. Social media amplifies the caricature of opposing views. Using names, identities and avatars of real people reduces this perspective.
  3. Calling out misbehavior, such as name calling, on social media within your own group decreases polarization. Yelling at the other side doesn’t do anything. Instead, ask for the behavior you want and reinforce shared identities, but remember, changing opinions is super rare.
  4. Disagreement can have positive effects. When we access the other side, we are less polarized over time because our views become less extreme. We are more likely to seek out disagreeable views online because it’s safer and (mostly) anonymous.
  5. Face-to-face discussions are still most effective; it’s a lot harder to be a jerk to someone’s face.