All of this has implications for democracy. While disinformation and polemics may stimulate a broader public conversation about social concerns such as gun violence, the relative incivility of these narratives which included polemics and insults are unlikely to increase users’ tolerance to individuals’ championing opposing perspectives—which is an important precursor to consensus-building . Conversely, fact-based narratives, particularly those discussing May’s mental health, could assist in consensus-building regarding health care in America. Even the personal narratives shared by students may help those holding opposing points of view regarding issues such as gun control better understand one another insofar as these stories can help individuals find areas of unanticipated agreement. Disinformation, in short, is bad for political conversation, political debate and deliberative processes.
Engagement in visual-centric blogging introduces students to a popular form of public sociology that develops the sociological imagination. As Lisa Wade and Gwen Sharp, founders of Sociological Images, note, sharing compelling images and social scientific analysis in blog form is an effective way to engage a non-scholar audience in developing understandings of social science principles.
Overall, narratives about school shootings vary dramatically in terms of the kinds of topics discussed as well as the civility of the discourse. More importantly, it appears that civility is directly related to the opinion entrepreneurs, who drove the narrative creation on social media and helped spread (in)correct information.