On the morning after the election, the biggest symptoms of this disease were clearly manifested. Social media was full of vitriol between Trump and Clinton supporters who were either gloating or in the anger stage of mourning. Feelings were hurt, anger was expressed, and one thing was clear, rationality had left us.
On Facebook, I saw a sarcastic post about becoming a new supporter of Bernie's free college platform after seeing what happens in an election with such a so many under educated Americans voting. To this post, a friend responded that he was showing prejudice by claiming stupid people voted for Trump, Another friend went even further. This friend felt like she needed to defend all of their ancestors who received little to no education from this insult. Sadly, the sarcasm was not understood or was received with less humor than was intended. At times, we seem to be talking past each other, and no one seems willing or able to step back, listen, and respond in thoughtful manners.
Here is my suggestion.
- Stop using Social Media as the main outlet for Political posts. Twitter only allows 140 characters. This is not sufficient to express anything but zingers and catchphrases, none of which helps political discourse advance past the realm of a "yo mama so fat" fight. Remember when Facebook was this amazing place where you could connect with people you hadn't seen for decades. Now many of those people are spending their days in political squabbles and they are wondering why they were ever friends in the first place. Facebook is made for pictures of family, pictures of fancy desserts, and staying touch with others. The political posting to Facebook has made it an uncomfortable place.
- Utilize Blogs. The blog website was a great fad in the early 2000's. Generally, bloggers wrote in an eloquent manner, they put in the effort to write informative and thoughtful pieces, and the debate among bloggers was often robust but also stimulating. The best part about it was that you had to seek out blogs and blog posts rather than having everyones opinion in a gigantic scroll that you may only be looking at to waste a few minutes. They would be a great option for the Facebooker that insists on sharing their political opinions, but would like to maintain more civil relationships with people on the FB - link your blog post and only those who want to engage in a political discussion will go and read it. Other Facebook friends and family members can stick to enjoying your more casual posts about your family or cat memes. Blogger.com and Wordpress are great blog hosting sites.
- Do not share your political opinions unless you are willing to put in the work to write thoughtfully. The main problem of social media political posts and commentary is that the dialogue is far too emotion driven. Take the time to develop a thesis, make sure your grammar and spelling is correct, use punctuation, and do some research if you are claiming to cite a fact, and walk away for a while first if you are angry. Poor writing makes it more likely that you will be misunderstood and that you may offend even when you had no intent to cause offense, and poor writing makes you look stupid. Taking time to write will often allow you to calm down, and (maybe) even see things from the perspectives of others.
This last election was almost completely void of intelligent policy discussions and reasoned logical consideration of how either candidate might make changes (good or bad) to our country. I think this may be reflective of the fact that too many of us are will to express our political ideals in 140 characters or less. If you are going to discuss weighty matters, it is best to take the time to express yourself eloquently and with clarity.