If it's not a good idea to talk about sex, politics or religion at the dinner table, Facebook may be worse.
News this week indicates that, days after beheading yet another innocent Westerner, ISIS has captured 16 more villages in Syria. Police are on high alert everywhere. ISIS has proven to be evil incarnate, and they have taken advantage of a power vacuum in the Middle East. Almost universally, pundits have cried for U.S. intervention to stop the madness. The President of the United States has publically declared a strategy to counter ISIS, yet many consider his tactics too soft.
What should our nation do? What is our country's role moving forward?
Upon hearing that the Federal Reserve intends to keep interest rates low, the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit record highs. Jobless claims are at their second lowest level in 14 years. Have we recovered from the crisis? Would the middle class or Generation Y agree, benighted by student loan debt and ever-lower real incomes?
Ebola, a nightmare of biology, is ransacking western Africa with an outbreak that is, by far, the worst we've ever seen. How do we protect our borders and our people?
Scotland could have left Great Britain, putting an exclamation point on the conclusion of a once great Empire, and thrusting international relations to an even more complex state. What does this mean for international relations with our allies? Is this a sign that the United States could itself fracture in the future?
These are but a few of the many dozens of news items that really matter, news that provoke questions Americans should be asking. After all, the midterm election is just weeks away, and our political future (and perhaps our Electoral College system) is in the balance. We need leaders that can solve such problems, and we can't elect the right ones without an appropriate social discussion.
More than ever, Americans need to inform themselves - and each other - in order to make the right decisions. Better decisions. Decisions that don't divide us, but make us smarter.
But where can we talk about serious matters? Not on Facebook, not next to memes, cat pictures, baby videos, sordid gossip, and relationship statuses.
Facebook is a wonderful tool to reach old friends and stay in touch with new ones, especially on lighthearted matters. It's a great way to share photos and videos and chat casually. And look at the good Facebook can do - the Ice Bucket Challenge is a great example - when given the chance. According to Facebook, their videos were viewed 10 billion times and reached 440 million people.
Yet when it comes to talking about the difficult issues, Facebook is sorely lacking.
A recent Pew Study found "a spiral of silence" on social media - that most Facebook and Twitter users were reluctant, or unwilling to share their opinions - especially when they thought their friends and followers wouldn't agree with them. On complicated issues, it's even harder to maintain a worthwhile conversation.
Some attempt to use Facebook for serious purposes. But in my experience, most of the people talking about politics or religion on Facebook are those you don't want to hear from, anyway. In a Facebook debate on politics, nuance is completely absent, and very few want their innermost thoughts on a permanent record.
If Facebook isn't the right platform for politics, what is? As a longtime participant in social media, I've been trying to figure that out for a long time. I've been looking.
And here comes Courtney Jones again. This guy seems to see things the day before they happen. He was in on the internet boom in the nineties and basically had the idea for Google...before, well Google. That brainchild was Findwhat.com, which was the first publicly traded internet company on NASDAQ that posted a profit.
He's back. This time with a real and very plausible answer for inspiring a country to solve its own problems in a productive way. They already have some polite sparring on the site over the Electoral College debate that is attracting an impressive group of experts to say the least. And they just launched.
Saving America is a site seemingly designed to be a town hall for everyone, a social network for things that matter. Instead of being penalized or offending your friends on Facebook for voicing an opinion, users at Saving America are rewarded and they just may even be empowered with SA Coin, a new digital currency like Bitcoin. It's the reward system of the wild wild west...only digital. And real. Not really even so wild now anymore.
Insults and snide remarks are frowned upon... literally. Go figure? Polite intellectual friction, where everyone seems to want the same thing. Better answers. What the developers have seen since launching earlier this month is that polite discussion, even about controversial topics, can exist even on the internet. Solutions to even the most complex problems can be found by working together, perhaps as fast as you can say "Yes, We Can" at digital warp speed and end up President? The power of social media, with no agenda or even office to win.
Facebook is great for what it is. So is "Yo," for that matter. But neither focus on what matters. It's high time that Americans have a way to prioritize policy over gossip. So go ahead. Save America. You can. Unless you'd rather be President?