Former President Barack Obama sat down with the UK’s Prince Harry for an extended and far-ranging interview with the BBC this week, and their conversation touched on social media, the use thereof, and Obama’s take on what the current state of social media means for human discourse.
The full interview covers a lot of ground, but the breakouts regarding social media include an admonition against those “in leadership” using it in ways that prevent establishing “a common space on the internet,” which seems an oblique reference to Donald Trump and his use of Twitter, which is often divisive, and seemingly intentionally so.
“One of the dangers of the internet is that people can have entirely different realities,” Obama told the Prince, according to the BBC. “They can be cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases.”
Obama never overtly named Trump in his comments, but he did make reference to a need for us to “harness this technology in a way that allows a multiplicity of voices” without leading to “a Balkinisation of society,” per the news agency’s transcript.
The former U.S. President didn’t go so far as to completely condemn social media — in fact, he referenced it as a “really powerful tool for people of common interest to convene and get to know each other and connect.” But, he also said that people should then take that further and meet and become familiar in public spaces, too, in order to deepen their mutual understanding.