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Social media amplifies a stance closer to hate than reason

Anonymity and narcissism in social media is why we can’t have nice things, like civil discourse, compromise, and disagreeing agreeably.

An activist holds a sign that reads, “I refuse to be silenced by violent white supremacists!” near the Chicago Theater along North State Street in the Loop to protest the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse on Nov. 20.
An activist holds a sign that reads, “I refuse to be silenced by violent white supremacists!” near the Chicago Theater along North State Street in the Loop to protest the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse on Nov. 20.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Anonymity and narcissism are useful in voicing dissent that you wouldn’t share with someone face-to-face. Thanks, social media.

In fairness, social media gets blamed for a lot these days. Ex-president Donald Trump’s critics need to be reminded that he wasn’t the problem, just a symptom of a bigger problem. Likewise, anonymity and narcissism didn’t arrive with social media. They were already here.

This is why we can’t have nice things, like civil discourse, compromise and disagreeing agreeably.

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Some Kyle Rittenhouse trial observers contend that those treating Rittenhouse as a hero should consider the consequences of encouraging vigilantism. Those calling Rittenhouse a villain must see that ordinary Kenoshans didn’t deserve to have their businesses destroyed or fear for their safety. Many have stressed that for reason to prevail, someone on either side must be willing to stand against some of their own allies. Even then, social media tends to amplify a stance closer to hate than reason.

The Rittenhouse case, as one well-known columnist said recently, adds to America’s conversation about the role of race, of law and how both are holding us back. Meanwhile, social media is living up — or down — to its expectations.

An increasingly tired refrain after such shootings is, “This isn’t who we are.” Maybe not, but it appears to be who we’re becoming.

Jim Newton, Itasca

Small habits do matter against climate change

One of the most daunting issues regarding climate change is the scale of the problem. How are our individual actions supposed to accomplish anything when there are such big polluters around the world? The recent opinion piece by Tom Ptak about small changes making a big difference is an important reminder that our individual actions matter.

It is hard to change habits, but we don’t need to change all of our habits at once. Often, it’s the habits that require the least effort that make the greatest impact. The easiest habits to break involve inaction. Voting for change, especially with the proliferation of mail-in voting in Illinois, is easier than ever. Likewise, for too long, we have not held out lawmakers accountable after the voting is done. This, too, is easy to change. These actions, that once used to take hours, are just a mailbox, email or phone call away and take minutes. Political will is important.

Vote for lawmakers that support climate action. Email your thanks to local politicians in support of expanded public transportation and clean electrical grids. Call your members of Congress and ask them to support a price on polluters, with a cash-back payment that benefits the lower and middle class. Talk about Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin’s climate leadership with your family.

Each of these actions cost us so little individually, but together they add up to change that needs to happen.

Michael Holler, Montclare