Beware of Social Media's Polarization Vortex

"How red tweeters and blue tweeters ignore each other on [the issue of] Ferguson" via Quartz

"How red tweeters and blue tweeters ignore each other on [the issue of] Ferguson" via Quartz

A few weeks ago, I attended a day-long anti-bullying workshop for high-school freshmen, sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League.

Getting pushed around on the bus or the playground wasn't the biggest issue, though. The No. 1 place bullying takes place now, according to the students, was social media—particularly via anonymous messaging apps like Yik Yak.

One by one, I listened to the stories of teens tormented by name-calling and worse; oftentimes the worst form of online bullying was being made to feel excluded. (As if it weren't bad enough that you didn't have anyone to sit with at lunch.)

The experience, quite moving at times, reminded me that social media don't just bring us together, they can also drive us apart—often in destructive ways. 

That's certainly been evident in the aftermath of this week's Grand Jury decision in Ferguson, Mo., which has brought out the worst in many people on both sides of a vicious racial divide on Twitter, Facebook and other sites. 

Because we love to label phenomena, let's call this this one The Polarization Vortex—a force more destructive than the wintery storm hitting the Northeast today. 

Name-calling—no matter whose side you're on—never gets us anywhere.

Conversation is the only antidote to confrontation.