This is another in the “she said, he said” series of posts in which Shelby Sapusek and I share our opinions on social media related topics. As always, ladies first, so today Shelby has her say on political conversations in social media, and tomorrow I’ll get the last word.
I have always enjoyed a lively debate amongst close friends and family members. However, while I will participate in those debates, I rarely let my own position on the matter be known.
Any topic worthy of debate has two sides. I like to listen to someone’s opinion and then play the antagonist. I like to ask hard questions that someone on the opposing side might ask. My goal is really just to make people think.
Of course, politics is a topic that is easily and frequently debated. There always seems to be an election or some political brouhaha going on at either the city, county, state or national level. Recently, my home state of Wisconsin has been the focus of a political battleground concerning union rights.
Over the past few months, I’ve listened intently to family members, friends, acquaintances and strangers express their opinions on this over dinners, in bars and in social media. I admit that I’ve joined in these conversations using my antagonistic approach; but only with close friends and family members and then only in person. You’ll never see me say a word about anything remotely political on a social media network.
I think my reluctance to comment openly and unabashedly voice my opinions stems from my journalism background. After working primarily in the newspaper industry for 17 years, having an unbiased viewpoint has become almost second nature to me. That’s probably where my antagonistic approach comes from as well. Asking hard questions is simply part of the interview process.
It’s not that I don’t vote. I do. It’s not that I don’t have an opinion. I do. However, I never discussed it with anyone in the newsroom and I still don’t freely discuss it now that I’m out of the newsroom. I certainly would never discuss it on social media.
Social media is a wonderful means of communication; but it does allow people to somewhat hide behind their computer screens and feel safer and more confident to voice things they perhaps would never say to someone in person. In a heated political debate, I’ve seen things turn ugly.
I’ve watched my Twitter timeline and have seen intelligent back-and-forth conversations over Wisconsin’s union rights disintegrate into nothing more than a bout of name calling. I’ve scanned Facebook statuses and have seen what can only be called all-encompassing political party bashing.
I’m of the mind that these types of conversations shouldn’t be held in 140 characters or behind the screen of a computer in any way. I wonder if these “debates” would take the same course if the people involved were discussing it face-to-face. I bet that they wouldn’t.
Participating in a political debate on social media is a personal choice and I’m not telling people not to do it. However, you should remember that you are opening the door for someone who holds a different opinion to tell you so in a big way. If you feel prepared and want to deal with that, by all means, state your opinion loudly.
I choose to keep my politics close to the vest. That’s just the journalist in me.