Opinion: Rethinking social media politics

Posted on Aug 22 2017 - 8:01am by Daniel Payne

If you’re anything like me, you may find yourself hesitating to open social media after a polarizing political event.

Once-tame Facebook feeds become cesspools of misinformation and inflammatory comments, with the occasional breath of fresh air in the form of a post involving puppies.

This tires me out and occasionally disgusts me.

Even for someone with strong opinions, it makes me want to never join in the mess that politics on social media have become.

The problem with this approach is that we all have some sort of political opinions. That is because politics have everything to do with personal values.

How free should people be? How much should we be taxed? What should those taxes be used to do?

These questions can be simplified into one central question: What matters to you?

Our lives are unquestionably tied to the government, so whether we care about peace, education, safety or running tap water, we need to carefully consider the government’s ability to help us achieve these goals.

Not only does the government matter to you here and now but also to others in different times and places. Our policies on climate change and economic sustainability alike will impact those on the other side of the globe, as well as entire future generations.

As much as we may hear that politicians are all the same, that nothing will ever get better, that your vote doesn’t count or that your voice will get lost in all the others, we need to remember that not only are those statements not true, but there are dangerous consequences when we listen to them.

People often react in two ways when they are told their ideas aren’t worth sharing. Some will shy away from politics entirely, thinking the impact they could make with their voices is nonexistent.

To those who refuse to take sides in politics, consider these words from Martin Luther King Jr.: “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”

Others will try harder to make an impact, sharing so many ideas that they become more concerned with their own voices than the good that is actually done. It is this attitude of indifference that makes political discussion seem more like talking at other people than talking to them.

With more ways to communicate than ever before, we need to find ways to have civil, educated, enlightening conversations about things that matter. Here are three steps I think we should take as citizen-scholars to better our world by bettering our discourses.

For those who want to drop out of the political sphere entirely, we need your voice. Every person brings a unique perspective to the world, and it is only when we can hear these voices that we can make the best decisions as a society. If you see something that makes you say, “Someone should do something about that,” then that someone is probably you.

For those who have been accused of being too political, too inflammatory or too one-sided in your views, do some soul (and social media feed) searching. Look at your past posts and consider how you can make them more thoughtful and thought-provoking. Remember that calm conversations, not heated arguments, often do the most to change minds.

We should all consider how we can bridge the ever-growing gap of polarization in this country to make the world a better place.

Daniel Payne is a sophomore integrated marketing communications major from Collierville, Tennessee.