Thanks Umair, I enjoyed reading.

Thanks Umair, I enjoyed reading.

The democratic deficit is a real phenomenon, and I applaud it for raising the challenge that a politically impotent social media raises.

However, I feel that there is still an important role for social media to play in a democratic society. We have to find a way to make engagement between state institutions and citizens, and between citizens more civilised and therefore more productive.

Your article focuses heavily on democratic participation as occurring between citizens and state institutions (which is important), however it’s also important not to overlook the importance of political discourse between citizens. Our engagements with family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances is important, and often how political views change.

Rather than the medium of social media, I tend to think that the problem lies in the ideology of “free speech anarchy”, or the mindset that anything goes in the name of free speech. Good manners, etiquette, politeness and the social regulation of conversation has fallen by the way on social media, however there is an opportunity to design social media channels in a way which productive debate is encouraged while retaining the engagement which the dopamine hit triggered by social affirmation brings.

State institutions also need to look at ways in which social media can be used to design policy consultation channels which are engaging and easy to use for citizens, while providing non binary input on community needs and views on policy issues. It isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible. Again, the dopamine hit triggered by the affirming line of follow can also present a opportunity for effective engagement by design.

We should not forget that a representative democracy requires government on behalf, and in the interests of all citizens: not merely as a delegate of the majority will. A productive social media is a reality which we need to work with. We turn our back on it at our peril, and risk seceding democracy to ochlocracy.

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