Philosophical Topics

Volume 50, Issue 2, Fall 2022

Social Minds in Digital Spaces

David Barrett
Pages 85-104

Political Polarization and Social Media

A popular claim is that social media is a cause of contemporary high levels of political polarization. In this paper, I consider three of the most common kinds of arguments for the thesis. One type lays out a narrative of causes, tracing the causal steps between logging on to social media and later becoming more polarized. Another type uses computer modeling to show how polarized effects can arise from systems that are analogous to use of social media. The final type considers straightforward experimental evidence for the polarizing effect. I reject each of these arguments and explain why they are unconvincing.