In his first interview since leaving office, Barack Obama spoke with Prince Harry about the potential dangers of social media, warning the Prince and listeners of the negative effects it can have on society and civil discourse.
The interview itself was recorded in September, but was released today, December 27th, as a podcast on BBC. While discussing Obama’s former political campaign, Prince Harry called him the “first social media president,” prompting Obama to note that the internet can be both a “blessing and a curse” — especially when it comes to complicated political issues.
Obama encouraged listeners to try to hear people out rather than make general assumptions about them based off a few comments on social media. He said he believes it’s important for young people to have face-to-face political discussions, rather than communicating solely through platforms like Twitter.
The former president also said that social media should always allow for “a diversity of views,” and warns that, if not used correctly, it could lead to serious division in our country. He brought up the fact that, despite all the different views and opinions available online, it’s easy to find your own corner of the internet and become trapped there.
He said, “All of us in leadership have to find ways to recreate a common space on the internet. One of the dangers of the internet is people can have entirely different realities. They can be just cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases.” Obama went on to voice concern over how to harness the power of technology in a way that “doesn’t lead to a Balkanisation of society.”
However, Obama also acknowledged that social media was incredibly important to him during his presidential campaign, and praised younger generations, reminding us that their voices can lead to powerful change.