Why Politics and Twitter/Facebook Don’t Mix

ImageWell here it is, Thursday again and time to blog. I’ve realized it’s hard to blog when you don’t have something burning in your mind at the moment…but on the flip side it’s hard to write when you do. Many times, the things that are pressing in on me are things that I’m still not comfortable sharing my thoughts on with the greater population…even through the relative anonymity of the internet.

I have made a conscious decision to avoid posting polarizing political/social/religious/etc. topics on the various forms of social media I use. It is an intentional action every time I DON’T post something about the current political climate, the different debates, and the nasty arguments that are flying around the news. Is it because I’m not passionate about my stance on politics and religion? Not at all. But when I read something online and I feel the heat of indignation rush through me my first instinct is to pull my fingers away from the keyboard before responding. Maybe it is because when I’m scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook or twitter, I roll my eyes and scroll faster when I see people touting their political agendas in a way that is neither intelligent nor interesting. So many of the “political” tirades on the various forms of social media employ some sort of passive aggressive form of attack. The “intolerance” of people who think differently, the “stupidity” of people who believe a certain way. I’ll admit, I’ve un-followed or defriended people who feel the need to spew out the noxious word-vomit that they think is political awareness. They have every right to say those things wherever and in whatever manner they choose, and I have every right to refuse to read it.

The upcoming election will be the first for which I am old enough to vote, so I have been trying to keep up with the newsworthy events of this year’s electoral race.  It horrifies me how often the “news” articles we read have the same tone as the outbursts of a bunch of high schoolers and college kids who probably know little about what is going on in the world today and, what little they know, they understand even less. That is not to say that I understand everything about what I’m reading. I’m a liberal arts major who hates math, so things like the stock market and the economy aren’t things I comprehend easily. I usually have to text my Finance major friend and ask for the dumbed down version. But, recognizing this lack of understanding is another thing that keeps me from ranting about things in politics, because once you put it out there in writing, it is open season on your comment/tweet/or post.

Maybe the reason I avoid posting is that I see how quickly things become unfriendly. A simple statement of opinion easily turns into a full out social media argument that can only deteriorate until it becomes nuclear. Maybe I’m just not willing to set myself up for that kind of firestorm. Or maybe it’s because out of all our “friends” on social media (in my case, at least) maybe 10% of them are actually my friends, people I speak with or see on a daily or weekly basis. I don’t feel the need to discuss my stand on abortion with some guy I sat next to in a class two years ago. I don’t want to get into a heated discussion about Chick fil a’s recent comments with someone I haven’t spoken to since high school graduation. Maybe if there was a way to have an informed, intellectual, and polite discussion about these things, they wouldn’t devolve so quickly. But, unfortunately, these topics are inflammatory and it is very difficult to have a calm, rational decision about something you’re passionate about with another person who completely disagrees.

Imagine how much simpler it would all be if technology didn’t exist and all we had were our voices, if you had to look someone in the eye and listen to their voice to understand their opinions and beliefs.

I hope someone tweets that.

Thursday Thoughts on Social Media

Social media can be very tricky. Those of us that use it in its various forms want our ideas/thoughts/photos/rants to be read and sometimes there is the safety of anonymity. But what happens when everything becomes linked? Your Facebook friends are your Twitter followers and also read your blog, your grandmother is friends with you on Facebook and your friends’ parents are your “connections” on LinkedIn. You follow high school teachers on Pinterest and some kid you sat next to in Driver’s Ed follows you on Instagram. Thinking about things like this makes me realize how big the generation gap has become. When we try to explain Instagram to our parents: “Well… It’s like Twitter…but with pictures. Get it?” I’m fairly certain that my Mom thinks Pinterest is just my way of feeding my unrealistic imagination/expectations of what the future might hold.

I don’t know what it is about our generation that makes us want to share EVERYTHING we do or think with the world, whether it is some sick voyeuristic need to know what others are doing, or a desire for attention or whether it is an effort to connect to people in a world where everything has become so automated and  impersonal. It is strange to be someone who enjoys Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram–the mindless, time-consuming Internet black holes–and someone who also thoroughly enjoys the meaningless chats I have with the cashiers at the grocery store or at a boutique.

I think the danger in becoming engrossed in social media exists when electronic interaction takes over our need and desire for real, human interaction.There is also the danger in feeding the collective ego of a generation who already considers ourselves to be entitled and destined for success. Maybe it was our parents telling us to dream big or all those little league teams giving trophies to EVERYONE. Maybe it was the fact that Barbie could be a housewife, a doctor, AND an astronaut all a change of clothes and some ridiculous stiletto heels (what astronaut wears silver pumps??). Maybe it’s just that we grew up (until now) in a time of prosperity, so far removed from the Great Depression and the World Wars that we couldn’t help but be optimistic about our futures. I don’t pretend to have any of those answers.

Which, perhaps, is another reason we cling to the connections that we gain through social media, through the immediate gratification of information that exists right at our fingertips. If we don’t have the answer or even AN answer, maybe someone else will. Although based on the grammar and spelling contained in many of the Twitter/Pinterest/Facebook posts I see, I highly doubt it. People who lack the ability to use the correct forms of there/their/they’re cannot possibly have the answers to the deep existential questions our generation seems so determined to unravel. Maybe I’ll just Tweet some good song lyrics and Pin an inspiring quote. That’ll solve everything. Right?