After the Social Mirror experiment, members of Roy’s lab debuted a project called FlipFeed, which exposed people on Twitter to others with different political views. Martin Saveski, the study’s lead author, says the point was to change how people felt about the other side. One of the experiments prompted participants to imagine, whenever they came across an opposing view, that they were disagreeing with a friend. Those given this prompt were more likely to say they would like to speak with the person in the future, and that they understood why the other person held an opposing view.
The results were congruent with another observation made by [Eli] Pariser [an internet activist and founder of the viral video site Upworthy]. He’s noticed that some of the best political discussions online happen in sports forums, where people are already united by the common love of a team. The assumption there is that all are fans of the team first, and conservative or liberal second. There’s an emotional connection before politics even enters the discussion.