Politics and friendships in the Time of Social Media

So I have not written for a long time… yet again! They say a good writter needs to have some level of angst inside to produce good works but I guess too much angst can be debilitating as well. Anyway, I digress from my extemporaneous-speech-worthy title. I can just imagine picking up this title from the jar and being given 1 minute to compose my thoughts before I launch into my speech. But, that was a different life, when I was young and the world was my oyster… yet I digress again!

So, onto the topic chosen.

Social media has become ubiquitous in our present lives just as the smart phones have become akin to extensions to our hands. We have become a society that lives in both real and virtual worlds. Social media has made it possible for us to connect with people miles away and in different time zones. Sharing of information is just a matter of nano seconds now compared to days if not weeks by ordinary post. People across the globe can be influenced and galvanised into ideology or action with the use of social media. People, like myself, can share my two cents’ worth of opinion to the world. Social media is a good tool depending on how it is being wielded and who is doing it.

In the last Philippines Presidential election, social media played a big role in galvanizing the people of 7,107 islands and of at least 120 dialects. Social media managed to challenge the biases of mainstream media as the people themselves can post live streams of the actual events rather than listen to or read the news that have already been slanted to the media’s own biases. The people’s decisions were no longer influenced by what is on the tv or radio. There was suddenly an alternate way of knowing of what is really going on. Social media made it possible for a mayor with no real political machinery to win by unprecedented huge margin.

As I said earlier, social media can only be as good or bad as the user. The one advantage and disadvantage of social media, our thoughts and opinions will be broadcasted to the public instantaneously. Politics, just like religion, is polarising in its nature. People will always have to take a stand in politics. Even the act of abstaining is taking a stand. This is where social media can become a virtual field of landmines. People can take a personal affront to opinions or posts shared. That is one of the effects of sharing an opinion unfortunately. But there is also an unspoken agreement in social media decorum or etiquette that is expected which are:

a. Everybody is free to post their opinions

b. We can agree to disagree on things

c. We can have a friendly reasonable discussion on the topic on my wall as long as there will be no name calling or expletives

d. If you want to throw your toys out of the pram (aka throwing a tantrum), please post your meltdown on your own wall.

e. There is the unfollow button to click if the posts are annoying or offending you.

I have followed the above rules in my use of social media. I have clicked on the unfollow button several times so I avoid irritation and I also do not lose friends over opposing opinions.

Having a meltdown in someone else’s wall is like following somebody to their own home so you can have a tantrum in that person’s home because you had a disagreement on something. I know that this sounds ridiculous but that is exactly how it feels when someone is having a tantrum on my own fb wall. Gentle ribbing is ok  and I normally can roll with the punches thrown. I understand that that there will always be differing opinions but when reactions are incindiary, I sometimes just erase their posts. That is my way of showing them the door in the virtual world then click on the unfollow button.

With the recent Presidential elections for USA, the whole world is still reeling from it and trying to re-orient itself to its axis. It is indeed polarising not just for the citizens of USA but for the whole world. People fell out with their friends on social media because of the results. Social media has made it possible for all your virtual friends to know  simultaneously your opinion once you have decided to post it online. 

In the next couple of months, UK will be going to the polls again. Social Media is now starting to fill with election related articles. I do not shun these things on my fb feed. I actually welcome and read them (- both sides )so I get a balanced view on things. ( although, I have always be a socialist in my ideology). I would like to enourage everyone to read up for themselves too. It is our responsibility as citizens to read on what we are voting for and not just be swayed by who talks the loudest, longest or more charismatically. Learn to be savvy on determining on who is telling us half- truths. How do you do this? Educate yourself on what is being discussed. We cannot blame the politicians for telling us half-truths because that is their tactic to get votes. We can only blame ourselves for the ignorance in our own votes. 

Last night, my friends and I were talking about the coming election. We are of differing opinions but we respected each other’s opinion. We were respectfully listening to each other and agreed to disagree. No tantrums were thrown. 

In the last referrendum, a good percentage of people did not vote then cried foul over the results. It is my belief that those who did not vote do not get to complain regarding the results because they lose their right to do so when they actively opted not to vote.  Those basically who did not vote, gave up their right to have a say and decided to go with the majority, hoping that the majority will make an educated vote. Errr… no, it does not work that way. 

I am not here to convince you who to vote for. I just want to remind you of your power as a citizen in helping steer the future of this country. Educate yourselves. Read up. Register. Vote. 

And our opinions will differ and for sure social media will become a virtual field of landmines. We just need to remember that when the election is over, we will still need to interact with our friends, colleagues, family and loved ones so let’s have a good debate going without attacking the person airing his or her opinion. Let us not lose friendships over politics. 

So… let the campaign begin!

 

NB I started writing this last November (hence the introductory paragraph) but I got interrupted and never finished this until now. With the new election looming, I have decided to finish it as it seems to be relevant to the times again.  

 

 

 

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