In light of the controversies that surround presidential primaries, so-called humanitarian movements, and hot-button crimes, it seems as though social media has become the primary platform for debate.
Back in my high school days (which weren't all that long ago), I'd sit in my AP Government class, and spend a solid hour arguing with my peers over politics and current affairs. If you had something to say, you just had to hold out until the right time, and then you'd have the prime opportunity to bring up your thoughts and concerns, whatever they were. Elections and war weren't discussed in my groups of friends; rather, time was spent discussing reality TV and who had said what before the bell. That being said, I was always the person who wanted to converse about things that "really mattered." Needless to say, I was one of a very small minority.
Now, as soon as I open Facebook or glance at my Twitter feed, I see my peers posting status updates and 140-characters-or-less bits on Romney's victory in Illinois, or outrage over the Trayvon Martin shooting, or skepticism on the "Kony 2012" movement.
Just recently, I found myself in the midst of a very heated argument on a friend's Facebook status regarding Invisible Children and the new movement that has become the center of media attention. It quickly turned away from a civil discussion on the achievements and shortcomings of "Kony 2012," and became an all out attack on the person behind the words. With each response, it seemed that the first instinct was to launch into self-defense, and take down anyone who made a point for the opposition. It became "politically incorrect" almost instantly, and I ended up just unsubscribing from the post in order to save myself the frustration of remaining unheard.
Here I am, wondering -- when did this happen? When did social media turn from a place to keep in touch with friends, to somewhere for people to broadcast their political and ideological beliefs? Don't get me wrong, I'm all for this new level of awareness and activism, but I'm also conscious of some of the problems associated with the transition.
With a few clicks of a button, we can proclaim our ideas, however radical they may be, and essentially shout them from the rooftops. This has its benefits, of course, but I've learned that people seem to lack a filter before they post. In person, I feel like individuals are almost forced to hear each other out to a greater extent. Unless you enjoy finding yourself in public screaming matches, you don't really have much of a choice. On the other hand, with Facebook and Twitter, what's to stop us from typing without thinking? We have nothing to lose, right?
Those who you once thought were politically and blissfully unaware are the ones posting the most controversial of these statuses and tweets. Just as we refer to alcohol as "liquid courage," I think that there's a similar effect with social media. We're so distanced from the action that we develop a new confidence and simply go for it. Again, why not?
When you're on the sidelines of one of these heated discussions, it's almost comical to watch how emblazoned people get over these issues. Of course, that all changes as soon as it's on your wall or you're getting the red flags post-comment. We complain endlessly about "those people," but we all do it. We become bold and opinionated, and make sure everyone is aware of where we stand.
I doubt Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey saw this coming...