Social Media Gives Everyone a Voice – Including the Crazies
Social media has been powerful and transformational for society in the 21st century. Depending on how you view it and what personal experiences you’ve had with platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and a handful of other social networking sites that attract millions of daily users, you probably have your own opinion regarding whether social media has been good or bad for political discourse in this country.
But regardless of whether you stand on the far left, far right, or smack dab in the middle, one fact is overwhelmingly clear: social media has given a visible platform to people who previously had no voice.
Social Media, American Politics, & Crazies
If you’re like 95 percent of Americans, you have normal political views. Your ideology may skew right or left – and you may be extremely passionate about your stances on certain hot button issues – but you genuinely want what’s best for the country. You want the freedom to be protected. You long for safety and security for your family. You desire financial success. Your definition of freedom, safety, and financial success might differ from your neighbor’s, but you both have wholesome intentions.
The problem is that social media doesn’t just give you a voice to express your opinions, share your beliefs, and rally around political figures who you believe support your causes. Social media also gives a voice to The Crazies – the 5 percent (or less) that have extreme views that are in no way, shape, or form indicative of the majority. But because their voices are often the loudest and their opinions so outlandish, they zap up attention and convince everyone else that they are in fact the majority.
Quite honestly, The Crazies are killing this country and further dividing the right from the left. As one Reddit user explains, “It’s easy to find the most extreme 10% (or 1%) of the other side and present them as examples of its utter ridiculousness, mendacity, and malevolence. But the result of this is that the more reasonable 90% are ignored.”
Social media is an echo chamber and it’s a lot easier for people to find vulnerable targets – extreme opinions from crazy people – and beat them like dead horses than it is to seriously confront people on the other side of the political spectrum who have genuine ideas and beliefs.
I’m not sure what the solution to this problem is. Free speech – even hate speech – is protected, and it would set a very dangerous precedent to start silencing people because they have different opinions (even when they’re extreme, hateful, and wrong). But at the same time, the more we allow The Crazies to thrive, the stronger the perception becomes that everyone has extreme views.
The obvious solution is to stop giving The Crazies a voice, though this easier said than done. Instead of elevating insane arguments on Facebook, we all need to just ignore them. Instead of responding to hateful tweets that go against everything you believe, just block the user and move on with your day. This takes a large amount of discipline and patience, but it’s the only real way to stop amplifying their messaging.
The second solution is to make friends with people who have different political opinions than you and actually have face-to-face conversations with them where you genuinely seek to understand where they’re coming from, as opposed to trying to convince them that they’re wrong.
We all have friends who root for other sports teams, have different hobbies and interests, and maintain their own religious convictions. Why can’t we also have friends who have different political beliefs?
Where Do We Go From Here?
We’re at a very perilous point in this nation’s history. I don’t think the country is about to collapse or that America will cease to exist in the next quarter century, but we’re walking a slippery slope. While most people still want what’s best for themselves and their country, social media seems to elevate the opinions of a select few – The Crazies – and threatens to ruin rhetoric and relationships, which comprise the backbone of the country our founders built.
I’m not quite sure what the solution is, but it has to look different than what we’re doing right now. We the people have to drown out the noise and focus in on what we know is true: That all people are equal, and that we all have certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.