On Facebook, I have 1,702 friends. Most of them are American, and most of those have a political opinion. I know most of these political opinions because of the incessant posts over the past days, weeks and months. Facebook becomes a hotbed of activity surrounding big events. The election, the Giant winning the World Series (again!) and Hurricane Sandy all are news-worthy events according to my fil d'actualitié (newsfeed - yes my facebook is in French). But what exactly does it mean? All of a sudden, a tool that is supposed to support multi-media communication betweens friends becomes a disturbing mix of strong opinions, random articles and sass about all the other posts. Here's some recent posts I've seen (no edits, names not shown obviously).
Voting conservatively and then drinking liberally
I'd definitely encourage all my friends who aren't land-owning white males to vote today, because there was a time when it would have been illegal.
Let's go voters-esp WA! APPROVE REF 74. We as Americans believe in the fundamental principle of equality. Extend this principle to same-sex couples who truly deserve the ability to marry their loved ones. Be careful with the wording of Initiative 502 "marijuana reform." If you are looking for it to be legalized, this definitely is not the way you're going to want it to be legal. Still time to vote. Drop off locations are here:
I could go on all day. As you can see the range is huge, from politicking, encouraging general voting, showing off that one voted, to good comedic relief from a stressful period.
But throughout the election season, one of the most telling things I've seen are links to articles or links showing the reason why you must vote or not vote for one candidate. That's whats frustrating to me.
Facebook, twitter and blogs are great tools to share media, be it intellectual articles or humorous videos on serious topics. I've read a number of good articles and had a few good laughs from pictures like the one above, but I can't imagine my political views being shaped by my Facebook friends, let alone by the few things posted. It seems to be that political values are minimized by the emphasis on speed and posts with single links on Facebook, and are diluted by the sharing of articles or pictures in isolation.
A political stance is a very complicated thing. It takes a firm understanding of one's political system, history, and current events at minimum. Beyond that, one needs to know their values, especially what takes priority. Finally, one must comprehensively understand the values of different candidates, and what these candidates want to do. The sames goes for propositions. By the time the general election comes along, there's not much choice, people remotely Democrat will vote Obama, those remotely Republican will vote Romney. But who really researched every candidate during the primary season? How many Republicans and Democrats could have found a candidate they support on a deeper level if they had been more invested from the start. To be politically involved takes constant and consistent political awareness. It takes voting in every election, and always knowing why you are voting for what.
I'll say that this is my ideal, and especially as I am living abroad I have neglected living up to it. We're in the calm before the storm for the 2012 election, so its too late to change anything, but here's how I think we can do better next time:
-Always know what our government is doing - and what we want them to be doing
-Be up to date on current events - grazing every headline and reading a few headlines can do the trick for most
-Vote in every election, local elections and primary elections are in a sense more important and one has more political efficacy in these.
-Be well-versed in every medium and not rely on single articles or pictures to convey a point
I've always said that I don't like to discuss politics. That's tough coming from a country and generation that loves to. Yet I believe if we're not truly informed and understanding, we are wasting our time. If everyone was informed, and everyone voted in every election, we could have better discussions and see the results that we want, albeit slowly.
Half the country is going to be unhappy tomorrow, the other half content. As for the winner, I am far from knowledgable enough to predict so on vera. I will say this: neither candidate is going to be as terrible as their opposition expects, in our brutal two-party, bicameral, federal system it is impossible. That's not to say things may change drastically. I know who I want to win, based on my convictions and my research. Hopefully you do to.
In case my wordiness distracted from my message:
I think the excessive usage of social media gives only a glimpse of our political convictions, and therefore isn't being utilized properly. However, it does reflect the comprehensive knowledge of politics and currents events that myself, college students and the rest of America lack. Our neglect makes us less than ideal citizens. With greater understanding and increased political participation, we can be better, more contributing members of society.