Sen. Sasse tells UNL students to unplug from technology

In this Monday, Feb. 11, 2019 photo, University of Nebraska senior Hunter Traynor shares his opinion on the question of why don't people always get along as UNL student Grace Chambers, U.S. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., and Kamryn Sannicks listen Lincoln, Neb. (Savannah Blake/Lincoln Journal Star via AP)
In this Monday, Feb. 11, 2019 photo, U.S. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., answers a question posed to him during a panel discussion for the University of Nebraska's Charter Week Celebration while students Grace Chambers, left, and Kamryn Sannicks listen in Lincoln, Neb. Sasse said technology has undermined traditional community structures, and ideology or “political tribes” are rushing to fill the void. He said political parties aren’t adequate replacements for communities. (Savannah Blake/Lincoln Journal Star via AP)
In this Monday, Feb. 11, 2019 photo, U.S. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., answers a question posed to him during a panel discussion for the University of Nebraska's Charter Week Celebration while students Grace Chambers, left, and Kamryn Sannicks listen in Lincoln, Neb. Sasse said technology has undermined traditional community structures, and ideology or “political tribes” are rushing to fill the void. He said political parties aren’t adequate replacements for communities. (Maddie Washburn/Omaha World-Herald via AP)

LINCOLN, Neb. — A Republican senator who's among President Donald Trump's most vocal critics within the party blamed technology for the country's divisions during a discussion with University of Nebraska-Lincoln students this week.

Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska spoke to more than 600 students Monday at an event called "Why Don't We Get Along? How Huskers Can Change the Future."

The first-term senator said technology has undermined traditional community structures, and people try to replace them with ideology or "political tribes." Political parties aren't adequate replacements for communities, according to Sasse, who has said he regularly considers leaving the GOP and becoming an independent.

"Republicans and Democrats are crappy tribes," Sasse said during the panel discussion. "These aren't people who love you and are going to comfort you in your old age. They're just political parties."

Sasse recommended that students engage in meaningful ways away from their screens, such as having more face-to-face interactions.

But many student panelists said the solution is more complex than unplugging from technology.

Junior student Grace Chambers said technology and social media shouldn't be avoided, but rather used as a tool to educate and engage students.

Hunter Traynor, a senior, criticized Sasse's argument as ignoring their reality of growing up immersed in social media.

"It's hard to think aspirationally when all the solutions are pitched in nostalgia," Traynor said.

Traynor acknowledged that technology use has exacerbated rifts in American society, but he said it's also created opportunities for conversations that can heal them.

Traynor recommended that his peers "seek out information you disagree with on purpose."

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