Connect Politics Taboo Tuesdays

TABOO TOPIC TUESDAY: POLITICS AND SOCIAL MEDIA

How to navigate the complicated and divided online landscape of social media politics.

Most people have opinions on politics these days, and they’re usually strong ones. Social media has given us the opportunity to share the things that are important to us. But what should and shouldn’t make its way to our public and often permanent personal history on the world wide web?

COMMENTING

No matter how cautious you are about sharing your strong political opinions on your profile, everyone has those friends who aren’t. And sometimes those friends don’t have similar opinions… So, what do you do when you follow someone who is spouting off about things that, in your view, are just wrong? Do you leave a comment and hope they reconsider their baseless rant? Or, do you scroll on with an eye roll and decide not to take the bate that often leads to pointless and cruel internet fights?

It can be tempting to want to add a voice of reason to blatantly biased posts, but at some point, we have to consider that the people so confident and so committed to their cause that they post about it on social media might not be open to a new perspective. Although you may think they’re asking for it as they’ve chosen to post to a public forum and invited commenters to share, we all know what they’re really looking for is support from their similarly-minded friends. In general, it’s safer (and healthier) to avoid the kind of name-calling fight that gives people on either side of the aisle a bad rep.

THE ARGUMENT FOR AND AGAINST SOCIAL MEDIA POLITICS

On one side, social media gives us a platform to help inform our community about impactful events happening around us, and it lets us become activists for causes we care about. These are important things, and having informed and active citizens contributing to the public dialogue (a dialogue that helps shape public policy) is an important and even necessary component of a republic. Our societal structure doesn’t work without conversation. It’s so important that the freedom of speech, particularly political speech, is the first amendment made to the constitution in the Bill of Rights. Staying informed and informing others is no joke.

On the other hand, however, we all know what a catastrophe political rants on social media can end up being. There are two general scenarios that tend to happen. First, there’s your weird uncle who only reposts “news” articles about the crazies on the other side of the aisle. It’s embarrassing, but besides you and a few other obligatory family follows, he’s pretty much sounding off to an echo chamber of other old men who will never change their mind about the political views that make up their identity.

Second, there’s the political rant made by that girl you sort of knew in high school but didn’t really know. Like, you had a few classes together, had some common friends and saw each other at a few parties, but you didn’t know about her (strong) future stance on The Wall and abortion laws which now seem to be one of her favorite things to post about (outside pictures of her cat). Now you see her posts and cringe.

HOW FAR IS TOO FAR?

So where’s the line? We all want to be the girl that posts informed, insightful, and important awareness posts about what’s happening in the world. The one who reminds her friends and family to vote, that the rights of every person matter, and that there’s something not right with the system. But even that can be tricky. Because here’s the thing, posting anything about your political views on a semi-public forum like the internet could backfire bigtime, especially when you’re in the midst of a job hunt.

You may believe that no competent hiring manager or future boss could ever believe what you know is just and good and right is, in fact, wrong. You, like your crazy uncle, probably live in an echo chamber yourself. We all do. Most people tend to surround themselves with people whose values and opinions align, especially on the hot topics. Your potential future boss isn’t apart of that chamber. They’re in their own chambers, listening to the confirmation of their own opinions and “facts.” So when you’re desperately applying to jobs and the hiring manager who has a fifty-fifty shot of disagreeing with you sees your highly charged political posts, guess whose application just got tossed?

This is one of the first things your professors or mentors will tell you about career prep and managing your social media image: Just don’t do it. Don’t post it.

So it’s up to you, of course (the first amendment says so). You need to weigh your options. It’s important to be politically active and to give a voice to those who don’t have one. Social media gives you a nice and easy platform to do that. However, be wary of adding a voice to an echo chamber that isn’t really adding value to the conversation. Make sure you’re providing verified facts and well-rounded points of view. And be wary of your own personal biases so that you’re not painting yourself as a Millenial version of your crazy uncle: set in your ways, uninformed, and only listening to the messages that confirm your own views.

It’s also important to be professional and to be able to get a job. From a soon-to-be-college-grad perspective, every professional adult will tell you to just keep it off the internet. There are so many ways (oftentimes more impactful ways) to be an active citizen. Attend a march, vote, have meaningful and open-minded discussions with your friends and classmates, talk to people with different opinions from yours, start a movement if you want to.

A great way to practice open-mindedness and learn about the world outside your echo chamber is by have a conversation with someone new. Check out the Hey! VINA app to swipe right on a whole new world of ideas and fun.

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