politics

Weary of the Political Divide? Don’t Quit Social Media Just Yet.

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Politics are everywhere — especially our social media feeds. After eight months of fierce campaigning, we now are watching the political divide play out in real time on social media.

People are getting frustrated with what they see on social media. Some claim that they’re “quitting Facebook” or other social platforms (save for perhaps Instagram).

But don’t delete that Facebook account just yet.

Here are 3 reasons why you should engage in political discussion on social media:

1. Social media is the new “marketplace of ideas.”

Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once wrote,

The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out.[1]

Today’s “marketplace” is social media. As such, it is the place for discussion and is the literal form of the theoretical marketplace.

As we navigate this divisive political landscape, competing ideas need to be placed in front of many individuals, whether the ideas are confirmed as factual or not. Together, we work to clarify what the truth is. We affirm what is true, and we discredit what is not. Academics call this process peer review. Social media allows us to do peer review in real time.

So, do not disengage. Engage the discussion. We need your voice in the marketplace of ideas.

2. The best form of communication is listening.

All through my undergraduate and graduate education I was taught that at least 80 percent of communication is listening. It’s even reasonable to say that communication only truly happens if the message is heard.

People on all sides are communicating important ideas on social media, but these points must be listened to in order for them to be effectually communicated. There is no better place to listen to point of views different than your own than on social media.

3. Social media is humbling.

Engaging in social media can be humbling because we are not the only ones who use it. You may think that you have the best opinion on all of Facebook, but a few minutes of scrolling and reading will likely prove you wrong.

We are all humans. We all make mistakes. We all occasionally have wrong views that need to be corrected. Social media will remind us of these truths, if we allow it.

Our share-happy fingers need to be careful they are not sharing lies.

Now we know why we should engage in political discussions on Facebook. How, then, should we do this? Here are 3 suggestions:

1. Be kind.

You will encounter many kinds of people (and ideas) on social media with which you will disagree. You may be on the other side of the political solar system, but that is no reason to treat the other person without the human dignity they deserve.

Their ideas do not make them sub-human, and your disagreements ought never to escalate to ad hominem attacks.

2. Listen.

The best form of communication is listening. Take the time to listen to their arguments. Hear them out before constructing your reply. If necessary, even research their statements. Bigotry is being intolerant of other positions. The best way to be a bigot is to fail to listen.

In addition, you should even listen to the ideas that you agree with. Research them with equal fervor. Though we live in a highly educated culture, fake news can go viral in moments. Our share-happy fingers need to be careful they are not sharing lies.

3. Be patient.

You are not the only person engaging on social media, so be patient. Not everyone will approach difficult discussion on social media with the same kindness. Some individuals will attack you and your character instead of discussing the given topic. It is okay to end the conversation and move on, but do so gracefully, not antagonistically. (And while it may be difficult, be open for further conversations with that person. They may just be having had a bad day.)

Don’t assume that everyone with a differing opinion is the devil and out to destroy you. Give them the benefit of the doubt, hear them out in kindness and patience and engage in the difficult discussions that are all around us on social media.

So don’t delete your Facebook account just yet. You need to learn from your neighbors, and they need to learn from you.

[1] Abrams v. United States

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  • politics
  • social media
Sam Morris

Sam Morris is the Electronic Marketing Specialist at Southeastern Seminary. He holds a BA and MA in Communications from Wichita State University. He is married and has one son.

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