Unless all you’ve been doing for the last year and a half is binging Netflix, you may have noticed that we’ve inaugurated a new POTUS, and that’s come with a fair amount of strife throughout the country (and abroad). The United States as a whole are mostly running a little hot right now, and by “a little hot” I mean quite a few people are fucking boiling 24/7. We’re five days into the new administration and we’ve already had the largest protest in American history.
Where you’ve probably noticed this the most is when you browse your social media feed. What was once nothing but terrible sports takes and food videos has gradually become the digital political battleground of the 21st century. The comment/thread debates, the videos, the all-caps and occasionally misspelled tweets by public officials; they’re covering social media like glitter at a strip club. Even if you try your best, you can’t get it off.
I’ve no doubt that there are a least a couple friends on Facebook or follows on Twitter that you’re wrestling with the decision of hitting the mute button on. I also have no doubt that if you’re following me, that you’re cognizant that I’m one of those people.
Trust me, there’s enough self-awareness on my part to acknowledge that my social media activity has been exhausting of late. I’m very conscious to the fact that my timeline is a constant stream of politically charged tweets and re-tweets. I used to pride myself on using my social media accounts to do nothing more than tell
fucking terrible really funny dad jokes and lament the horrendous pitching staff of my beloved Minnesota Twins. To tell you the truth, I’d love to be that guy again.
To be that guy again, however, it’d mean that I’d have lost the passion that seems to drive me to use my platform to discuss and share political content on a daily basis. That’s not something that’s on my agenda anytime soon. Despite the complaints by friends and followers, each day I only see more reason to discuss the latest news and policies that come to the forefront of the social media universe. In an era where “Fake News” has become a national plague, I feel as though it’s something of a moral duty to not only speak my mind, but to make sure I have factual sources to back up my opinions and share as needed. Nothing would make me personally more at peace than to not give a fuck what’s happening in the world, but I’m just not wired that way.
There’s no personal pompous belief that I have influence over anyone or can sway another individual’s views simply with a tweet or Facebook post. But, as PGP’s own Dave always says, it’s about starting a dialogue. Twitter and Facebook are the town hall meeting of this generation and the most convenient place where views and ideas can be shared with others around the country. Sometimes there’s nothing more frustrating than bearing witness to or participating in an argument via some form of social media; I can almost hear my friends’ voices in my head saying “Jesus Christ, you’re at it again?” every time I chime in to say my piece on someone’s shared video or quote a rapidly circulating tweet.
What does it hurt to pop in with maybe a dissenting opinion or link to an article to consider when discussing a recent political hot topic? Why shouldn’t I retweet something that I see as a valuable piece of information regarding legislation or policy? Sure, maybe you’re never going to change someone’s opinion when debating them with a keyboard. Couldn’t it be feasible, however, that an internet bystander could see it and take interest?
Perhaps someone witnesses discussion on an issue or from a different viewpoint that they hadn’t pondered or seen before and chooses to educate themselves further. Hell, maybe it starts a chain of events that leads someone to take action by calling their rep in Congress or getting involved in local politics. A random Facebook debate or Twitter thread to many could just be angry people thrashing into a keyboard. To those who prefer their social feeds politics free, it’s admittedly likely an annoyance and an understandable subsequent unfollow. But if there’s any chance that it leads to any sort of positive call to action offline, I think that gives being politically active on social media inherent value.
What if one tweet or one post leads to one more person informing themselves more about any sort of issue that’s up for debate in the political spectrum. I don’t view it as the worst thing in the world to perhaps give someone the chance to become more informed, or in turn receive or be presented new factual information that I myself need to look into harder. For me, that happens every day. Most of my favorite pieces of writing or podcasts that I’ve discovered in the last year have been because someone shared it on social media.
But it’s these acts that while some view as tiresome or obnoxious, I see them as a valuable and positive use of the time I spend on social media. “Living in a bubble” has been shouted like a war-cry from both political ends of the spectrum when, in the reality of the 21st century, we should be as far away from living in bubbles as possible. Anyone politically active on social media has the ability to see debates and insight from people and sources from vastly different viewpoints. I mean, if you were on Twitter exclusively for sports, would it make sense to only follow Skip Bayless?
The most worrisome habit I see formed by others across social media is only reading, sharing, and interacting with people on the same side of the aisle. Personally, I think it’s crippling to the future of the country as it leads to a less and less informed public population. Bi-partisanship has rapidly disappeared over the past fifteen or so years, and I think the advent of social media and a personal tailoring of information is directly correlated. I feel like I owe it to myself to follow prominent figures and outlets from every corner of the opinion universe because I’d be a social media hypocrite if I created my own bubble.
With society’s ever-deepening reliance on social media, the threshold for decorum has shifted. When social media has increasingly more power to steer the rudder of history in ways that affect our lives, any shame or harassment you endure for sharing your opinion becomes a smaller and smaller price to pay.
Online discourse is not pointless. You cannot force empathy on others, but challenging someone’s constantly reaffirmed opinion is an important first step toward progress or at least mutual understanding that other’s opinions matter. We only become a fact-free society if a passion for seeking the truth dies in favor of convenient observance. The unfollow button is there if you want it because I’m going to keep plugging away. .