Depolarizing Conversations With The Debate Without Debate Podcast

Asher and Joey Bykov are the co-hosts and producers behind The Debate Without Debate Podcast based in Roslyn, New York. Their podcast is dedicated to ending polarization through conversation.

Why did you choose to create a podcast instead of a blog or a website?

We both have a background in public speaking as debaters in high school. Podcasting was an easy way for us to continue our passion for public speaking and pluralistic dialogue. It also allowed us to reap the benefits of blogging and video production since there is a lot more researching, writing, and editing for our episodes than it may seem from an external perspective.

What inspired you to start your podcast?

As young, politically engaged teens, we were troubled by the overwhelming polarization we noticed in our own community. Travelling the country as nationally ranked debaters, we realized that we were not the only ones who felt that something was wrong. Instead of merely complaining about the problem, we decided to start The Debate Without Debate Podcast in January of 2019 as our first step in breaking through Gen-Z’s echo chambers by inviting thought-provoking guests to create a forum for depolarization through conversation.

We have interviewed the likes of Gary Vaynerchuk (CEO of VaynerX), Cal Newport (NY Times bestselling author of Digital Minimalism), and Nadya Okamoto (founder of PERIOD), as well as influential teens like Regeneron Science Talent Search Finalists and TikTok stars.

Most notably, we have been heard on the GaryVee Audio Experience (a top 50 podcast on the Apple Podcast Charts).

What does depolarization mean to you and why is it significant?

We view depolarization as a project to bring all people to the “table” to talk about their perspectives, regardless of those beliefs. Depolarization requires humility.

It requires the outlook that there is a chance (even if only a slim chance) that we are wrong.

In our experience, depolarization is most effective when talking to people from across the aisle. Whether it is on topics like the 2nd amendment, climate change, or income inequality, we encourage others to go out and just talk to someone you disagree with. Depolarization is about understanding why others have the opinions they have. It can be frustrating, especially today, when people disagree with us, but if there is anything we can take away from the debates we watch on the news it is that inflammatory attacks typically derail productive dialogues. “Depolarization through conversation” is about taking the mic back from all the smoke and mirrors you see on the news. We, the people, control the narrative and can bring healthy pluralism back to our seemingly broken world. And, it begins with a simple conversation!

Do you believe that social media connects our generation or prevents us from connecting meaningfully?

Social media is a tool, much like a pencil is a tool for writing purposes or glasses are tools to improve one’s vision. All too often, however, we are sucked into a matrix of mindlessly scrolling on social media, and it isn’t just a coincidence. These platforms were psychologically engineered by their developers to be as addictive as possible (a lottery machine if you will) because it drives dollars to stakeholders.

The result is something we call the modern connection paradox: the idea that we are even more connected than generations of the past, yet we feel lonelier than ever before. A secondary repercussion of social media is it has reinforced echo chambers instead of breaking them down.

Apps like Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and likes all function on an algorithmic base, which pushes content to you based on your preferences. On one hand, this tactic is beneficial for the end user because we find new content and creators. On the other hand, though, these platforms are reinforcing our ideas instead of radically testing them, which is a problem because it creates unconscious confirmation bias among users.

That being said, we can always take back control. Recently, we have seen the power of connection and information dissemination on full display with the increased attention on our public health systems, Black Lives Matter, and income inequality. It is undeniable that social media has played an important role in keeping us informed.

We would also add that digital detoxes have been incredibly powerful in reorienting our personal relationship with technology, and we would recommend it to anyone who feels lost or overwhelmed in these times. Professor Cal Newport, author of Digital Minimalism, spoke beautifully about this topic on our podcast recently. That episode should be live sometime in the next few weeks!

How can we cultivate meaningful conversations and relationships in the day and age of social media where we feel connected digitally, yet we are less likely to build meaningful connections through it?