PS Symposium: Contentious Politics in the United States: What Role for Political Scientists?
Social Media and the Scholar in an Era of Hyper-Nationalism and Fake News
by Joshua Busby, University of Texas at Austin
How should scholars use social media in an era of fake news and hyper-nationalism? This essay reflects on ways I have sought to engage on social media, beginning with insights from blogging on and off since the mid 2000s. In this last election cycle, I also engaged in intensive exchanges on Facebook both before and after the election, dealing with inflammatory posts as well as the impact of fake news on people’s political views.
With the emergence of high profile outlets such as the Monkey Cage, blogging has almost become an expected complement to one’s academic research. However, if your goal is to influence the wider debate as a public intellectual, it is unclear what impact an occasional blog post has. One should not confuse pageviews, likes, and retweets as a proxy for influence, except on the margins of public debate.
As a citizen and professional political scientist, my intent on Facebook was to engage in person-to-person exchanges, the idea being that if I led by example then others might come forward and hasten a new ethos of cross-ideological conversation on-line. At the same time, these efforts might encourage people to be more discerning consumers of on-line content.