Social Media, Politics, and “Friends”

It’s that time of the election cycle. Our feeds are full of political opinions. A friend of mine posted an article about how easy it is to offend our virtual friends on Facebook. This made me reflect a bit on how we project ourselves to the virtual world. I personally don’t mind all the opinions, even if I often choose to stay on the sidelines, piping in with likes and comments instead of starting the discussions myself.

The way I look at it, if someone wants to unfriend me or stop following me for my beliefs, that’s fine. Makes me wonder why I’d want to be connected with someone that doesn’t respect me for my differences in the first place. Likewise, I have shed a few connections over the years for their consistently hateful ideas, which has only left me feeling lighter in knowing that those people don’t belong in any facet of my life.

Instead of seeing the barrage of opinions put out into the online universe as overkill or offensive, I see the Internet as a useful, natural filter for deciding who I really want to have in my online sphere. Sure there are plenty of relatives and coworkers and old friends and acquaintances I do not agree with, but as long as the dialogue is kept respectful, I like that there is a place in this world where they can express themselves openly and I can know them a little better.

This whole idea that we should not have hard conversations with the people in our lives gets under my skin. If we cannot have them in real life, as the article points out is often the case, then I am happy they can occur, even superficially, in the virtual sphere. The only way the world changes is if we start to listen to each other and understand our differing perspectives a little better.

I know it may seem like all the political noise does not really change anything, but I think it does, little by little. When I was in high school, gay kids were beat up, and no one publicly said anything to stop it. Now, all those same kids are grown-ups with Facebook accounts, and suddenly it is pretty mainstream to speak up for gay rights, (even if some of these adults are still on the other side of the fence). This shift in dialogue is just one example of how putting ideas out there can make other people feel safer in voicing their opinions too.

So, as your feeds fill up with ideas you may or may not agree with, I encourage you to be grateful a space exists where people actually speak their minds. Maybe eventually it will make people brave enough to start having important discussions in real life too. And, if nothing else, at least it shows us where the people in our lives stand, whether it be on the left or the right, or in a space of wanting to say nothing.

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17 thoughts on “Social Media, Politics, and “Friends”

  1. Kozo says:

    A well timed post, Olivia, as my FB page fills with political propaganda. I agree that the online space leads to more voices, thus more understanding. I try to read my feeds with equanimity–don’t get overly upset or excited about any particular point of view. This helps me stay open to all points of view.

  2. Shandell says:

    Well said Olivia and I agree, great timing!

  3. Seb says:

    Ah! But most people on Facebook don’t peak their minds, really. They just regurgitate pabulum and memes and accede to a mob mentality. For example, gay rights/equal marriage – 100% honorable cause – ;lots of noise about it at the moment, but not one single word about the legislative program which will make their easy to espouse penny philosophy a reality. Everyone is happy to chant the chant, because that is easy – no one has any actual practical idea about how to make it happen. Oh well, it fills the void Kony left, I guess… 🙂

  4. I think, most of the people try and maintain a false identity on this virtual platform. Their untouched pains and under-achievements haunt them in their real worlds and thus they concoct a personality which they think they are…
    Otherwise, whatever you wrote is perfectly right.. Its good to read something that you feel or already know.. Ha ha ha!! 🙂

    • oliviaobryon says:

      Perhaps. I think people are a lot of different things on the internet. I definitely think it adds a screen that people hide behind that often makes their words less true. I guess I’m just trying to look for the best in it, that at least they’re speaking up somewhere if they won’t do it in real life.

      • u mean chivalrous bloggers are generally escapists? 😛
        Nice to exchange thoughts fro people living 1000s of miles away, listening to Bob Marley right now.. even more nostalgic! 🙂

  5. kingmidget says:

    There are two problems I see with a lot of the political posting on the internet. First is that far too many people believe they should be able to post their positions, beliefs, etc. without then engaging in a discussion about those positions and beliefs. If you come on and say, “Yeah, but, what about …?” and then ask for some kind of factual confirmation for their position you then become the target of name-calling and stupidity. I’ve posted about it on my blog and made reference to a couple of websites where it has happened recently. Which leads to the second problem … behind the anonymity of the internet, people are willing to sink to a level they would be unwilling to if they were out in the open. The vitriol that passes for political “debate” on the internet is something I’ve never experienced with in-person discussions. It has led to a coarsening of the debate and the growing distrust between the sides.

    • oliviaobryon says:

      I don’t disagree there are problems with it– but I am tired of people being unwilling to talk about it in real life, so I’m glad it gets talked about somewhere. I’d rather know what so-and-so really thinks than go along in life not realizing where the people in my life actually stand, (nasty words and all). Likewise, I think it does give strength to people who have trouble speaking out when they realize they’re not the only one that supports something, especially as issues become more mainstream like gay marriage. But, that’s me.

      • kingmidget says:

        I do agree that it’s better to know these things and not to know them. Seeing which among my FB friends “like” Mitt Romney tells me all I need to know. 😉 You’re also right about the impact the social media has had on some of these issues. We may very well not be as far along as we are on gay marriage if it hadn’t been for social media.

  6. I’m not sure how I feel about social media these days. Everything is an opinion. I work with the public on a regular basis and to me it seems loads of people don’t want to accept any responsibility for their actions, nor do they realize what an incredible thing Freedom of Speech really is. We are millions and millions of humans so by that alone we won’t all agree, I don’t expect we would. Life would be rather boring if it were only vanilla. But, on the other hand, I really wish people would begin to be more humane about how they express the differences. I have no tolerance for Hate. It serves no purpose toward moving us forward, yet Hate is all around. I disconnect myself from television and the internet as much as I am able. My blog is more of a journal of an inner journey that I believe many are taking and it’s good to connect with other like-minded individuals. I want to see similarities but other simply want to hold on to differences. The Internet is amazing in that it allows us to connect with people all over the world in real time, but its downfall is those that forget common courtesy also have a platform. I’m just trying to Be. That’s tough enough. I don’t need the Haters. Been there. Done that.

    • oliviaobryon says:

      I completely agree– the haters are what makes social media gross. There are definitely plenty aspects of it I really don’t like, I just would not be offended if someone stopped following me or being my “friend” because of something I posted, (which is what a friend of mine was annoyed about). I’m glad a space exists where people express themselves, especially since so many people in my life refuse to express themselves in person… However, I’m with you that the negativity and attacks don’t serve anyone. I think we have a long way to go, I’m just trying to look on the bright side that this space exists. 🙂 I love that your blog is a space to be. That is a wonderful way of putting it.

      • I agree about the ‘friend’ thing. It’s great that you write what you write without censoring it for others. Too many people get caught up in collecting ‘friends’, etc., until their voice gets lost in the din. I like the honesty here. I may not always agree, but I agree everyone should be able to express themselves without hate or fear of reprisal. You’ve a good thing going. 🙂

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