Great ResignationDiversity and InclusionCompensationCEO DailyCFO DailyModern Board

Social Media’s Role in the Angry Election

October 26, 2016, 2:57 PM UTC

Anger and incivility are among the most striking features of this election, and everyone has an explanation (usually that it’s the other side’s fault). Now the Pew Research Center offers important new evidence based on actual data. The bottom line is that while social media are a blessing in many ways, they also have a dark side, and this election illustrates it starkly.

Increasing use of social media is the flip side of a drop in what researchers call “off-line” interaction, or talking in-person. Thus the common sight of young people sitting silently around a table communicating with their thumbs, often among themselves. A problem with this trend, Pew finds, is that the vast majority of social media users feel that “people say things when discussing politics on social media that they would never say in person.” Specifically, about half of social media users believe that political discussions on social media are angrier, less respectful, and less civil than discussions elsewhere; smaller percentages think they’re about the same, and mostly single-digit percentages think they’re actually an improvement.

A large majority just ignore content they disagree with rather than engage in discussion. Similarly large majorities say they’ve never changed their mind about a political candidate or about a social or political issue because of something they saw on social media. Only about a quarter of social media users follow political figures, and they’re almost always people the user agrees with. Only about 3% say they follow mostly people with opposing views, but don’t suppose that these are determinedly open-minded voters. Just the opposite; as Pew notes, this practice is known as “hate-following.”

Who’s to blame? Enthusiastic supporters of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will be disappointed that the views noted here are held with nearly precise equality by members of both parties. Increasing anger and incivility are no more the other side’s fault than they’re your side’s fault.

Contrast these findings – and very likely your own online experience – with what happens when people discuss politics in person. Tempers can certainly flare, but most of us stay in control and at least civil most of the time. It’s harder to hate someone in person – not impossible, but harder. When talking face-to-face with a seemingly reasonable human being, we can more easily open ourselves to the possibility of changing our mind; we may not change it on the spot, but we might start down that road.

Increasing political polarization far pre-dates social media. Political scientists find that polarization in Congress, as measured by legislators’ voting records, has been widening since the end of World War II. In addition, one could argue that social media incivility merely reflects the larger culture. But which is causing which? The best explanation seems to be that even if social media only mirror cultural trends, they’re a magnifying mirror.

It’s hard to see any reason why these unhappy trends will reverse. But those who are heavily into social media might consider trying the intensely human experience of having coffee or a beer with someone from the other side. If nothing else, it will be different.

You can share Power Sheet with friends and followers here.

What We're Reading Today

Tata Sons companies face $18 billion in write-downs 
The company abruptly fired chairman Cyrus Mistry on Monday without stating a reason, replacing him in the interim with patriarch Ratan Tata. That reason could be the billions in write-downs the conglomerate's companies face as a result of poor investments. Companies potentially taking the write-downs include major operations Tata Motors and Tata Steel. Reuters

Judge approves VW's $14.7-billion buyback plan
Volkswagen will offer to buy back or fix some 475,000 2-liter diesel engine vehicles in the U.S. that were modified to cheat on emissions tests. Drivers will also receive up to $10,000 in compensation for the deceit. Matthias Müller's company will also donate $5 billion to support environmental programs. Approval of the plan is an important step in VW's attempt to move past the crisis, which erupted 13 months ago. Los Angeles Times

Google Fiber expansion halted 
Larry Page's Alphabet announced it has stopped expanding its Google Fiber business, postponing or ending efforts to expand in 10 cities. The business will continue to operate in the eight cities where it has installed fiber and will grow in four others; about 9% of Google Fiber's workforce will be cut or reassigned. Customers aren't signing up fast enough to support expansion. Ars Technica

Jared Fogle's ex-wife sues Subway 
Katie McLaughlin claims Subway knew about Fogle's sexual misconduct with children, for which he's now in prison, as early as 2004. She claims Subway didn't look into accusations against its high-profile spokesman for fear of damaging the brand, and she wants restitution for negligence and emotional distress, among other claims. Subway has yet to respond to the suit. Fortune

Building a Better Leader

The proportion of women angel investors...
...has jumped from 5% in 2004 to 25% last year. Much of their focus is on companies founded and run by women. Washington Post

White House calls for a ban on non-competes 
It says that if more states banned the contract language, the result would be more competition in the labor market.  Fortune

Knowing your employees' passions...
...can help you understand how they generate and utilize knowledge in your organization. Conceivers, for instance, like to mold new ideas. Creators then interpret their innovations. SmartBrief

Political Insights

Clinton aide on emails: "We need to clean this up"
President Barack Obama said he first learned about Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while Secretary of State from news reports. Two days later, a spokesman clarified that Obama knew Clinton's email address, which was not a address, but didn't know the specifics of the server setup. Leaked emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta show that top Clinton legal adviser Cheryl Mills told Podesta that Obama's answer needed "clean up." Donald Trump argues that Obama is part of a coverup to protect Clinton. CNN

Recordings show Trump's fear of losing his celebrity
In Donald Trump's last extensive interviews before his presidential campaign, he talked about his fear of not being in the public spotlight. He says he's never failed and admits that he doesn't "like to analyze myself because I might not like what I see.” NYT

Duterte: U.S. troops should leave the Philippines
Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte made the statements while speaking to Japanese businesspeople. The U.S. presence at five Philippine military camps began under Duterte's predecessor as a check on China's military expansion in the region. It's another sign of the Philippines' growing ties with China. CBS News



Up or Out

Ericsson has named Borje Ekholm CEO Fortune

Sherwin Williams has promoted Allen Mistysyn to CFO as of January 1.  WSJ

Fortune Reads and Videos

U.K. prime minister told Goldman Sachs...
…before the Brexit vote that she believed the effects of exiting the E.U. would be bad. Theresa May now leads the Brexit effort and has even floated the idea of negotiating a so-called hard Brexit in which Britain leaves the E.U.'s single market. Fortune

Slack teams up with IBM Watson... adapt "Watson Conversation" messaging app. The goal is that Watson will help Slack's chat bot communicate more like a person. Fortune

People are trying to scrub their Google results... filing libel lawsuits against fake defendants. They then report the suits to Google and demand removal of the "disputed" content. The scheme has worked, prompting the removal of at least 25 stories or posts. Fortune

Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman says he will vote for...
...Michael Bloomberg for president. Guess you could call that taking a stance.  Fortune

Happy Birthday

Hillary Clinton turns 69 today Biography

Chobani yogurt founder Hamdi Ulukaya turns 44 Profit

Share Today's Power Sheet:

Produced by Ryan Derousseau