Social Media and Politics: How Much Is Too Much?

By Alisa Pierce
Blog Content Contributor

The first debate between the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates aired on almost all major news networks last week. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton spent their allotted time pushing their ideas and insulting one another, while America weighed in not only on the policies presented, but also the feelings and opinions evoked by them. These feelings were subsequently put on display during the debate as thousands chimed in on social media.  Twitter and Facebook were alive with heated discussions and insults as users debated along with the candidates they supported. As I scanned social media, one thing became apparent: The minds of America are made up. The debate did not cause anyone to sway in opinion and certainly did not bring any new voters to either nominees. Although this election has been described as America being forced to “pick the lesser of two evils”, voters have picked their poison and have no problem talking about it.

This was evident to me as I saw people that I follow and people who follow them post and reply to declared opinions and argue with those that disagreed. It was not uncommon for me to see a user post something along the lines of “unfollow me if you’re going to vote for Trump” or “Clinton supporters are trash”, and through this inflammatory language, these people began to grow an obvious distaste for one another. As understandable as this is (who hasn’t judged someone because of their political ideology?), it made me wonder what the point of these arguments were. It was obvious that the users arguing had no intention of changing the minds of their opponents and instead focused on insulting and degrading them. It isn’t wrong for a person to be emotional about politics, but how far is too far when social media is concerned?

Photo by Alisa Pierce.
Many social media users strongly expressed their opinions during and following the debate. Photo by Alisa Pierce.

A sentiment that I believe many have forgotten is the power of silence. I am one of social media’s most ardent defenders, but it is abundantly clear to me that many do not understand that not everything belongs on Twitter. Its reasonable for people to post about things that they feel strongly about, but it is unnecessary for them to harass those who disagree. I know some arguments for a belief can stem from racism, sexism or any other terrible ideology that America has struggled with, but as many already know, debating with people who uphold those beliefs is like debating with a brick wall. I’m not saying that hearts can’t change, but trading insults back and forth with a social media troll will invite more bad than good into your life.

Even if the anger you feel about this election is justifiable, how often do you react accordingly whenever you’re being controlled by rage? What change are you inciting by arguing with trolls? In all honesty, ask yourself if you’re really trying to educate the public or if you are just trying to look cool in front of your followers. If you’re debating for all the right reasons, good on you. However, if you’re like me, there’s a good amount of ego involved with shutting down people you’re arguing with.

No matter where you stand, each candidate has provided an ample amount of things to be angry at, but you shouldn’t spend a large amount of time arguing on social media. How much anger should you allow to saturate your life whenever it’s directed towards people who, in the long run, won’t matter to you? Being angry over injustice or a corrupt system is sensible, but spending time being angry at an egg on Twitter is pointless. Having an intelligent conversation over social media is fine, but when people see you attack those who disagree with you, it all changes. Instead of being seen as a politically active user, you’ll be seen as a bully, and whether or not you care doesn’t really matter. Your reputation as a social media tyrant could seriously come back to bite you if employers looking to hire unbiased workers reject you or friends looking for calm discussions leave you out. Despite what you think, or even if you care, what you post on social media does affect your real life.

At the end of the day, it isn’t wrong to be upset over politics or to even post about it, but insulting others or spending a great amount of time arguing over social media does not reflect positively on you. You might feel like a champion for a short period of time as your like-minded followers favorite your tweets, but unless the topic is extremely important, it might be better to stay silent.

Holly Henrichsen

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