Social Media and Political Discussions
This probably should have been my first post. It's the reason I started this blog. But, hindsight is 20/20. So, here we go:
I've been on Facebook now for over 10 years. My buddy Nick created my account so we could keep in touch after college. I quickly found that this platform was a fantastic tool to keep in touch with friends who I otherwise would never again talk to. I loved it. And in many ways still am.
As the years went on, I posted more and more. I posted about my life events, quasi-patriotic posts about national holidays, and when my wife was giving birth I posted her contractions. Yes, I went there. Don't judge me. These were all fun. I even found the endeavor to be fulfilling, in spite of my family continually making fun of me, and showing their annoyance about ALL family get-togethers being documented for the masses to gawk at. I didn't care. I was excited to share my life with my friends, who were far and wide around the globe. However, this all seemed to change recently.
I don't know when exactly it happened, but over the last few years I noticed a trend. People seem to be having more and more political conversations on Facebook. Maybe it's just my observation or maybe it's part of a bigger phenomena. Either way, I've grown increasingly frustrated with it, and it wasn't until recently that I figured out why.
The reason for my frustration is simple. I have very rarely been able to adequately express my opinion in a Facebook post. Why? Because it just isn't conducive to having long, meaningful discussions. I feel like it's meant more for a quick post about what you're doing, a selfie, or at bet an expression of an in-the-moment feeling. Certainly, it's better than twitter in that you can post longer, but not by much.
When you do post longer opinions, or diatribes, it just looks weird. Chances are, most people won't read it. Anyone who's tried to write a few paragraphs will probably tell you that it isn't at all like writing in word. Facebook isn't meant for it. So it's really difficult to provide the kind of deep analysis or comprehensive expression that difficult (or even some simple) topics require.
What we're left with are short catch phrases; shares of someone else's opinion with a comment like the overused simple "this" or "stupid libtards" or "this has conservatives furious". At best we get a paragraph of someone's thoughts. Then, if someone cares, they'll react to the comment with one of the few available emojis. Someone might comment with a few words, or disagree. Sometimes, you'll even see a long reply or a post of another article. This may give you an idea of someone's leanings, but it doesn't give you the whole picture, if you even care.
"So what?" you might ask. "Who gives a crap?" I know what this guy/girl thinks". The problem is that many social issues we are faced with require a thorough discussion, research and presentation. We need to be able to look at the problem from all angles and then carefully convey our opinions so as not to put out the wrong message. That in of itself makes a 3-sentence post inadequate. You need to convey that you actually looked into the topic. If you don't care about any of these things, you're part of the problem. I'm sorry, but that's how it is. Because otherwise we're all just spreading ignorance. And that's what seems to be happening...a lot.
Look, I've been guilty of this myself. I've indiscriminately shared articles. I've posted catch phrases. Some of you are reading this thinking "I just saw him doing something just like this yesterday". I'm not saying I'm above it all. In some ways I might even be part of this problem. I'm reflecting. Those are two different things. Maybe I'm being too dramatic.
Maybe Facebook is a great venue for sharing information in general, whether good or bad. Maybe that's the double-edged sword of social media. I've certainly enjoyed articles posted by friends, news outlets and various web sites. It's just that I find that discussing them is difficult on a forum that is meant for selfies and food pics. This is what ultimately led to me starting this blog.
I hope that by doing so, I can better engage YOU. Because as much as I've learned from reading books and articles, I've learned just as much, if not more from the perspective of different people, who don't necessarily have something to gain from sharing their opinion. People like me who are simply just trying to figure this world out. What the fuck is going on???
So let's all stay on Facebook. I'm not against it. Let's even talk politics. I'm certainly not quitting any time soon. But if we DO use Facebook, then let's cut it out with the "gotcha" links, half-ass "research" that points to clearly biased sources, and short zingers that serve no purpose other than to cause outrage.
We can also take our time to have meaningful discussions and express our opinions on forums that are conducive to them - blog posts, emails, facetime, various chat apps, or maybe, just maybe, even meet each other in person.