A recent Pew Research study found that 18% of social media users unfriended or blocked others for posting a political opinion they either disagreed with or found offensive. We’ve all seen these comments on our Facebook news feeds – political, religious, social – that rub us up the wrong way. When that guy you went to sixth form with and haven’t seen since posts a 1000 word manifesto on Israel and you end up unfollowing them, deleting them or heaven forbid, commenting back, and starting something that a few hours later you’ll wish you hadn’t. Whether these types of posts piss you off, or you nod emphatically, warmed by the level of political engagement your friends have, they can often just feel out of place. Luckily there is another place for them. In comes Roust: a new social media platform promising to keep your fiery passions and tranquil social life separate. Roust offers you the opportunity to state your opinion without the prying eyes of your peers. Now you can engage in healthy debate without that added fear of looking ignorant, judgemental, or obnoxious – despite your best intentions. This is how it works: Roust provides users with a newsfeed of current issues and topics, which you can contribute towards with images and comments. Sounds a little familiar, doesn’t it? However, Roust has done something Facebook’s never been able to do: it’s added a ‘Dislike’ button. So if someone disagrees with you, you’ll know. That’s the idea though; Roust encourages heated discussion.
As soon as you sign up for Roust, it becomes apparent that the topics are heavy. Discussions include “If Bill Cosby Lived In Indiana”, “Gay Men, We Have A Drinking Problem”, and “Liberty University President Urges Students To Get Guns.” We’re seeing more and more niche platforms appear on social media. In case you were wondering: yes, there’s a social media network for your dogs, your knitting, your health defects. And those dating apps you love so dearly are pretty niche too. Roust is a positive idea in that it encourages political engagement. However, you can’t help but wonder: should our political opinions be kept off our Facebook walls and Twitter feeds? So far posts and groups on the platforms have united people, facilitated protests and engaged peaceful gatherings, and that’s a powerful thing. By compartmentalising our lives in this way and containing our opinions to isolated platforms, are we annexing political debate?