The Big Sort, released in 2008 by Bill Bishop, is a phenomenal piece of literature designed at identifying, outlining, and analyzing the trend of political polarization in the United States. Before you tune out and skim the remainder of this piece, it does not attack, nor support any particular ideology. At the center of Bishop’s argument rests the notion that as a person spends an increasing amount of time with individuals of the same opinion their beliefs and outlooks will only become stronger, as there will be immense support for the things currently accepted as valid coupled with minimal opposition. This can be said of any outlook. From the Christian Bible, “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” This statement, and larger the theory, could not be a more accurate, albeit bittersweet, portion of our society.
Bitter: Has the ability to create an impenetrable mindset that denies diversity of opinion.
Sweet: Has the ability to identify positive characteristics and allow those to be expounded upon.
Arguably, the bitter characteristic has greater potential to produce negative consequence, than does the sweet aspect to create positive impact. This notion is supported by the presence of the detriment to our society witnessed in political ideology, on both sides of the fence. First, thanks to social media our minds have been exponentially exposed to the lives and opinions of others, especially close friends who are likely of similar mindset. Second, the availability to follow celebrities and politicians further entrenches pre-existing notions. Third, the constant bombardment of news outlets often presents a single-sided narrative. Although these present no inherent issue, and may actually enhance lives, most people will seek interactions that support their principles in order to further cement maintained beliefs. The ramifications of flooding a mind with one-sided information is the lack of understanding that comes in that wake. Further, it often negates free-thinking and the ability to analyze various aspects of theories as this undoubtedly ushers in a shortage of comparable components. When this occurs, whatever reality is believed now becomes the only reality. And, it is in this moment lies the detriment to our society.
Bill Bishop and I would argue that it is no surprise to see the way our society acts when engaging in political conversation with someone of opposite opinion. Rather, it is an intrinsic feature of our circumstances as increased access to information does not guarantee additional opinions or diversified conversations. My fellow Americans, we need to strive to fight single-sidedness, and stay informed – truly informed.