Those of you who know me well know that I am not shy when it comes to spouting off my opinions (especially when it comes to issues that I am really passionate about) and I’m not one to back away from confrontational situations. That being said, I feel like I have gone back-and-forth lately with my involvement in the political issues circulating Facebook and other social media platforms.
Some days, I am fired up. I read an article and it really gets to me. I go on a wild sharing tangent, finding articles and posts and memes and blasting them into the social media universe just hoping that everyone will see them and be just as fired up as I am. No one can reign me in.
Other days, I keep scrolling and try not to engage.
First and foremost, I am grateful that I have the privilege to either engage in these issues or ignore them as I please. There are many people who are directly affected by this social and political climate we live in (regardless of your political beliefs, I think we can all agree that the current climate is hostile at best) and those people cannot just scroll on by. There are people who are more passionate than I am who refuse to scroll on by and continue with their day.
So I am grateful that I have the privilege to ignore these issues when it suits me.
I think — all the time — about how I am not doing enough. I could be doing so much more to help, but I’m not. Why is that?
I think a lot of us are struggling with this feeling that we’re supposed to be doing more. I get so inspired by the doers, but then I make up excuses for myself. I’m too busy. I’m not registered to vote in Utah. Whatever I decide to do won’t have a big enough impact.
This is why — I think — we end up in this cycle of clicking the share button on Facebook every time we see a post that inspires us or makes us angry or gets us fired up. Because we feel like we’re doing something. Even if it’s not much, we’re not staying neutral. We’re speaking up about our opinions and damn it we’re speaking up loudly.
We will be heard.
But what I’ve really been struggling with lately is, is this helping or hurting?
Are we actually accomplishing anything?
Or are we just driving people away and continuing to become more divided as a country?
I’m literally asking you these questions — if you’re reading this. I don’t have the answers. I don’t have an agenda or a solution. I have been watching the activity on my Facebook feed for awhile now and I keep asking myself these questions.
Are we shoving our political opinions down other people’s throats? Is it working?
I think — if our goal is to get someone to understand where we’re coming from — we may need to consider using a different platform.
I also think we need to get back to the basics of respecting one another. I can’t even go into the comments section of a post without mentally preparing myself for the brutality of the language being used. Probably, commenting “Karen, you ignorant fuck” is not going to get Karen to suddenly go, “Oh, you’re right, I am an ignorant fuck. Thank you for showing me the error of my ways.”
But I think we also have to remind ourselves that Facebook is full of ignorant fucks and we should probably not engage in conversations with them.
So then I circle back to, is this all a waste of time and energy?
They probably should have sent us a handbook or some mandatory online course on social media before this got so out of hand. Maybe we should start there.
Here are 10 Social Media Best Practices we should all live by (compiled by yours truly — off the top of my head):
- If you post it, it’s there forever. Yes, we can all say whatever we want. Free speech and all that. Sure, you can delete it, but it’s still floating in cyberspace somewhere with all of the questionable snapchats you sent.
- Unless you have a mobile phone with T9, use real, full words and spell-check. Especially if you’re posting something serious and you want people to take it seriously, do a quick grammar, spelling and punctuation check. We now have the handy “edit post” button if you don’t catch something until after you post it.
- If you share “news” or “facts”, do a quick fact-check. Snopes is a great resource. Just take two seconds and make sure what you’re sharing isn’t “fake news”. And if someone comments and lets you know that it is indeed fake news, just thank them and remove the post.
- If you’ve had a shitty day, maybe now isn’t the best time to get on social media. I highly recommend getting the app “Moment” (if you’re an iPhone user) and tracking the amount of time you actually spend on your phone and on various apps. I have also turned off my notifications for Facebook, so I have to actually go into the app to check anything.
- Don’t read the comments section. I’ve posted about this before. It’s difficult, but much better for your mental health if you just don’t even go there.
- Remember that you are talking to actual people with actual feelings and actual lives. Social media is non-confrontational. You’re talking to someone, but they’re not actually standing in front of you so you are disconnected. You feel safe. They won’t be able to slap you in the face for saying that, nor will you have to see their emotional response to what you said. Regardless of what these people said or what their political views are, it isn’t doing us any favors to lose our humanity and stoop down to a low, low level.
- Understand your own motivations. I think my motivation is to get people to understand my point of view. Your motivations may be different, but I think it’s important to clarify for ourselves what our motivation is, what our goal is, before posting something on social media.
- Be clear about your motivations. If your goal is just to be vocal about how angry you are about an issue, be transparent about that. If your goal is to get people to rally around a cause and take action, tell them that. If you share an anti-Trump meme with the caption “Fuck Trump”, half of us will be like “yeah, fuck Trump but what else is new?” and the other half will be like “Damn it Karen, you ignorant fuck, you can’t just go disrespecting the president of this country.” Tell us what your motivations are.
- Set limits for yourself. I’m telling you guys, before I got the Moment app, I thought maybe I spent like 2 hours a day on my phone. More like almost three hours. Almost three hours of my day is being wasted scrolling through meaningless B.S. and cute videos of animals and babies that I tag my husband in while I’m supposed to be at work, working. Figure out how much time you are currently spending on your phone or your computer, and try to cut that down.
- Take a break. There are plenty of other ways to be vocal about your political opinions or to help push social change that don’t involve social media. Try something else. Have coffee with a friend and get to know their political and social opinions, compare them with your own, and try to have a civilized conversation (pro-tip: listen to understand, don’t listen to respond).
I sense another post being written in the near future about spending less time on social media, but let’s not stray too far from the point.
The point is that we’re using all of this emotional and mental energy sharing posts and writing posts and commenting on posts and trying desperately to get people to listen to us.
The question is, if social media isn’t the right platform for a collaborative, inclusive, or at least a less hostile conversation about political and social issues, what is the right platform?
I have a couple of ideas, but I would really love to hear what everyone else thinks. Here’s what I have so far:
- Face-to-face. If you want to have a productive conversation with someone, face-to-face is the way to go. I guarantee they’ll be less likely to call you an ignorant fuck to your face and you might also find that it’s easier to hear them out and understand where they’re coming from (note: understanding where someone is coming from doesn’t mean you are agreeing with them).
- Neutral ground. Inviting someone into your home and engaging them in a grueling argument about your second amendment rights while showing them your 427 guns probably won’t make them feel super comfortable expressing any differences in opinion. Meet on neutral ground, in a public place, where most likely no one will be tempted to scream at one another.
- Pick your battles. Some people are lost causes. Some people do not have any desire to change their political beliefs or even consider listening to someone else’s. These people are not worth your time. Don’t try and invite them to coffee to talk about politics. It’s not worth your mental and emotional energy. Focus on the people around you that you care about who are willing to have conversations with people who challenge their opinions.
I am now going to share this blog post on Facebook so I’m not sure if that means I’m not following my own advice here, but I would love to hear what you all think! Let’s brainstorm some different ways to engage in conversations about these tough issues!