One of my friends recently posted a question as her Facebook status, "[Do] you think FB divides people more than bring them together... I think it may."
In recent times, humanity has been reduced to a lowest common denominator of quips, judgment, and disdain. We are seeing each other at our absolute worst. Between reality television and the advent of social media, we are losing the parts of ourselves that made us connect.
We are people. We cannot be reduced to our online presence. We cannot effectively communicate in 140 characters or less, and we cannot enact change through posting negative pictures or rants taking jabs at political leaders or policies. It is tempting, I know. I may have even posted a picture or two in a weak moment. But who is benefiting from our social media debates? I would wager no one.
Recently, flurries of posts about the Romney/Ryan team advocating rape were spread online. By seeing these posts, someone from a Democratic standpoint is going to be enraged, and someone from a Republican standpoint is going to feel that the lefties are so out of touch, they don't even understand the debate. We go to such extremes to make our points, that we make no point whatsoever.
It is highly unlikely that we will ever find a good presidential candidate with our political system as it is. Without selling your soul, by way of votes, to big business, special interest groups, and large lobbies, you cannot get elected. The path that leads to the White House is bloody. There is a lot to dislike in a politician by the time they reach that office, and if we as a people no longer want that to be the case, then we need to enact change.
The media fuels the fire of polarizing disdain between the two major parties, and we carry that torch onto our Facebook walls and Twitter accounts. We no longer see the opposing side as people, but merely evil. If you are a Republican, you hate gay people, women and science. If you are a Democrat, you are godlessly driving the country into the ground, stealing money from hard working individuals to give it away to people who refuse to work.
While that reduction may seem insulting and absurd, that is the message that we are feeding and being fed constantly. It can be hard not to be swept away by the incessant messages of fear and hate. However, if we take a step back and remember the times in life when we discussed political matters with our friends of opposing viewpoints, perhaps we are able to remember that we actually often have more in common than in difference.
I get notifications when my Facebook friends "like" Mitt Romney. Instinctively, my feelings are hurt. As a gay person, I am hurt that I have friends who would support a candidate who is opposed to equal rights. Without having the discussion with them about why they support Romney, I am reducing their support of him to a factor that may not even play into their decision. While equal rights is a top priority for me, perhaps for friends of mine, they may have a priority that is more pressing that is causing them to vote Republican this election. It is not an assault on my equal rights or a declaration of hatred toward me.
With a constant barrage of sharp tongued posts fed to me daily, however, my instinct is to equate a dear friend of mine with the political ads I'm seeing, and that is not fair. I do not believe that my fellow Americans are evil, and yet it is easy to get swept up in a political storm that brings out the very worst in us.
To find the best in us in this upcoming election, we would be best served to keep the debate off of our news feed, and be open to intelligent discussions that explore opposing viewpoints. While our political leaders may not be our brightest stars, let we the people carry the light. Two sides, vehemently opposed, causes inaction and works to the detriment of our nation. Let us find what unites us, rather than shining a light on all that divides us, and work together for a better future.