The quandary of social media and toxic politics

Politics. The name is so simple yet the word is so divisive.

The biggest advantage of mass media today is the ability for us to connect and relate to world-wide issues at any place and at any time. However, the biggest problem with politics today is the drive for mass media to consume as much of our time as humanly possible, while attempting to convince US what OUR opinion should be on matters that specifically creates the greatest amount of controversial momentum. Media companies make money by consuming time. Video game companies do the same thing. Create content to consume our time. An easier way to view this would be to take any number of “hyped” stories lately that drive people to TUNE IN, LIKE & SHARE. I encourage all you Trainwrecks to take a moment and think about a Breaking News story that occurred in the last year and appealed specifically to YOU. Now think about how it did or did not affect you personally months later despite engaging in a conversation about it with others.

In order to understand the frustration that takes place around political differences, first we must understand what takes place with the concept of sharing-vs-enforcing.

The greatest issue with sharing your opinion on topics (any topics) to the wide world of social media is the lack of humanity implied with the action. Sure, we can share a picture of our dog and gain satisfaction knowing other people enjoy seeing stuff like that in our lives. We receive an endorphin boost when we realize that picture we took of a little black and white dog chasing a mosquito got a LIKE. However, a portion of us also shares inflammatory and often incorrect information based on a whim. I am guilty of doing just that. I mean it’s easy to shake your fist and take a stand when you’re hiding behind a computer right? All you have to do is click that SHARE button. You are now an Enforcer, because you are enforcing that opinion (factual or not) to your social circle regardless if you make a statement on social media that verbally trashes another person. But what about when someone notifies us they have not done anything to us, the easy way out is always available right? We can just make the claim “well, I didn’t write that meme I just shared it.” And then we feel better right? We’re not responsible right?

WRONG. DEAD WRONG.

People, YOU are responsible for everything YOU say, do and post on the world wide interwebs as well as in the real world. If you say or do something that purposely violates or insults someone and you claim it’s not your fault you are simply being a coward. You are being selfish and an asshole. I know because this is exactly how I responded toward members of our family directing this type of behavior toward mine during the 2016 elections. I saw grown adults go from acting kind and decent towards one another to becoming absolute walking nightmares in the lives of friends and family they feel were or are responsible for a politician they have never met doing something they never cared about before and influencing something of even less importance than the strength of their coffee in the morning.

Let’s get something straight: when we post things on social media it is almost always shared to a specific “list” of friends and family.

These are the people we indicated on our social media profile as targets of sharing our personal content. As such, sharing a picture, a story or even a political discussion is going to send this information specifically to those designated people. Your FRIENDS and FAMILY and NO ONE else.

When we are presented with stimuli, especially stimuli that we immediately find familiarity with we are given the opportunity to SEE but we do not immediately take the time to PERCEIVE. Media companies are geniuses in marketing “clickbait” this way.

In this example I will use Clifford the big red dog. Let’s say you might have seen a story decrying Clifford the dog to be a giant red beast with huge fangs and claws the size of knives. While that may be an accurate description to one person who is not familiar with Clifford or even someone who just doesn’t like dogs in general, those familiar with Clifford the dog know he may be large but he is hardly a violent beast. That does not matter to someone who fears dogs or has a preconceived notion regarding large red dogs. Media giants are aware of this percentage of people who can be capitalized upon through power words and “breaking news” updates. One minute you might see a television show depicting Clifford the dog in a children’s show but the very next minute another person might simply see a picture of Clifford menacingly towering 25 feet tall over his owner, 8 year old Emily (another fictitious character). Now who is right? Who is entitled to having the “right” view?

In this case it is easy to see how the dichotomy of differencing opinions can boil down to personal perception, evaluation and decision. But what about someone who voted differently than us? Surely, they MUST have voted different because they do not value OUR opinions or what we think is most important. I mean after all; OUR opinion is most important right? And the news media outlets reaffirm these beliefs through over-hype when there are tragic events and opinions differ on the subject. What we think is right is ALWAYS correct! And we have those big media companies to validate that phenomenon!

WRONG. That’s toxic politics.

Most people develop opinions about subjects based on THEIR experiences, education and desires not OURS. The most important thing we can do regarding the opinions of others is simply to respect it (especially if it is different than ours) and decide if participating in a discussion about it is appropriate. I’m going to wear my soldiering boots right now and tell all you Trainwrecks out there it is NEVER appropriate to engage in a passionate discussion through any other means than face-face. If we feel passionate about a subject we saw, we have a very important choice to make: “Was this information on the interwebs really about me or am I just making it about me?” We have the choice to ignore what we don’t like and move on with our own lives if we choose. That’s being a non-consumer. That’s being an adult.

Now on the flip side we also have a responsibility to think about any and all information we share with others. We have a responsibility to decide to ourselves if today we would like to be a part of our own forward momentum or someone else’s. We can decide if today we want to discuss and share things that make us, and others feel good and promote what we are doing in our lives. Or we can decide to share memes and other information that do not make others feel good (especially polarized political discussions) and thus promote what is going on in someone else’s life. I realized when I was doing this very thing just how much it affected relationships with friends and family, and I made the conscious decision to stop it. I value the presence of others in my life more than I value a discussion about topics I do not agree based on my own values. Thus, I have again been reminded how valuable golden silence can be.

Since removing myself from almost all political discussions I have found I am able to concentrate better on the things I admire about others, not the things I disagree with. After all, I believe we are here in this universe to learn from each other, not “teach that person a lesson.”

I believe we are in this world to try and figure out how we can work better together and not divided. I believe we are in this world to try and find a way to move forward and work out our differences without destroying one another.

I have had enough of that shit. And deep down inside I think many of you have too.

You’re Welcome. Internet.

References:

https://wikidiff.com/perception/seeing

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clifford_the_Big_Red_Dog

This article was written while listening to episode six of a Jazz Hop Mix on the Youtube channel “Mindful Vibes.”

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