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Social Media, Politics, and Our Memories

I know it’s not a very striking title, but this is not my average post. Normally I don’t write about politics. Not because I’m not interested, I’m just really apathetic when it comes to politics. I don’t even discuss politics or religion, unless we are pretty good friends, but I’ve been thinking about this post for the past year. As I sit here, the night before the inauguration of president-elect Donald J. Trump, I believe it’s finally time to write it. Social media has been dominated by politics for a long time. I keep hoping for it to dissipate, but it doesn’t appear it will anytime soon. Friendships have been lost over words typed on Facebook. Families have been strained by fundamental disagreements about our future. Some are angry, confused, and hurting. Others are relieved, hopeful, and optimistic. I don’t think I could classify myself with any of those emotions. If anything I’m indifferent.

The last and one of the few times I have felt hopeful about politics was eight years ago when President Obama won the first time. The feeling went against the facts and history of how I know politics works, but he is a great speaker and very persuasive. He is very smart. They are all smart, even Donald Trump whether you like him or not, or they wouldn’t be in the position. Obama is kind, graceful, and usually says all the right things. I know a lot of people hate him, but I am not one of him. His presidency hasn’t been harmful on any level, but it hasn’t been very helpful either. I would call the Obama administration the pinnacle of being average when it comes to policy and change. Socially he an his wife have been stellar. They have inspired a nation, and been a beacon of light to many who never thought we would have an African-American President. Although I do agree with a lot of his viewpoints, he failed to accomplish many things for which I was hopeful. I even think the Affordable Care Act was a great idea, but I totally disagree with the execution of it, and how it was paid for. That said, he seems like a great husband and father (which we can’t say about former President Clinton).

Now as he is leaving I reflect on the memories of eight years ago. President George W. Bush had started a war he couldn’t finish, with a foe he couldn’t find. This cost our country more money than I can comprehend. He made huge decisions, which we found out later were based on bad information. Say what you will about the man, but he was a strong leader. He handled the situation surrounding 9/11 as well as anyone could have. The financial collapse that occurred on his way out the door sealed his fate. His approval ratings were so low the Republicans wouldn’t even let him campaign for John McCain. Can you imagine what that must have felt like? After all he had given for us, he must have been extremely hurt.¬†People were angry, they wanted change, and that is what President Obama ran on and won.

The current headlines read, ‘country divided now more than ever’. Both sides are attacking the other at a furious pace, and the American public is caught in the middle. Several times a day I hear about how the gap is too wide to cross. About how we will never be united again, but that’s not they way I see it. Am I the only one who remembers 2008??? I remember people being as mad in 2008 as they are today, literally. I recall the public being just as angry in 2000 when Al Gore lost to George W. Bush by the tiniest of margins. Then go all the way back to when President Clinton said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”. People were pretty hot then too! So what is different today? Social media.

It’s not just social media, but specifically Facebook. In 2008 they had 145 million users. There biggest demographic was 18-25 year olds, and they made up 52% of all active users. In 2008 everyone over the age of 35 made up only 28% of their users. In 2016 Facebook reached 1.79 billion users. The largest demographic was 25-34 year olds, and they made up only 29% of all active users. The growth of Facebook happened with older people. Now users over the age of 35 make up almost 50% of all active users. Couple that with what we know about human nature, and it’s very telling. We know that younger people tend to be more liberal and idealistic. We know the older a person gets, the more conservative they become. This in turn translates to political views. Bottom line, if the same demographics were on Facebook, and actively using it in 2008, I don’t think we would see much difference at all.

Facebook 2008

Facebook 2008

Facebook Demographics

Facebook 2016

What is shocking to people is that this is all new to most of them. If you’ve been on Twitter for a long time, then this is no surprise at all. The trolls have lived there long before Facebook. Having a heated discussion online is much different from having one in person. Humans are emotional. We are passionate. We hate to lose, and we never like to be wrong. This has led to what some have called the death of empathy. I don’t agree. Empathy is very hard to convey online. If anything has died it is our ability to communicate in person. To actually listen to another person and acknowledge them. To tell them they have been heard, whether you agree with them or not. Our devices allow us to escape confronting anything we don’t agree with, and that is not a good thing. Now we can selectively say what we want, to who we want, anytime we want, with no limit and our new President does it daily. To quote Spider-Man’s uncle, “with great power comes great responsibility”. That is what I think we all need to strive for, responsibility.

We will move forward, regardless of where you stand politically,¬†and regardless of whether you want to or not. Donald J. Trump will be sworn in tomorrow. If you voted for him congratulations. If you didn’t vote for him, I’m sorry you didn’t get what you wanted. Either way it doesn’t matter to me, as long as he does his job. In the end that’s really what it’s all about. President Clinton was immoral and undesirable, but he is the only President in my lifetime to balance the budget. Let’s not forget that all of these President’s are men too. Although they may not be ‘just like the rest of us’, they are human. They feel all the same emotions we do. I think that history remembers all of these Presidents better than we currently do. Yes, they were powerful and lived lives most of us can never imagine, but it also comes with great personal sacrifice.

My hope is for us to all be nicer online. The elected officials will do their jobs, or they won’t. Either way, trying to pick a fight about it on social media won’t change anything. Take a deep breath before posting or commenting, and make sure you have something positive or helpful to offer. I have yet to see anyone’s viewpoint get changed by a conversation on Facebook, and even if you accomplish that IT STILL DOESN’T CHANGE ANYTHING. You can change 100 minds a day, and it still won’t change the election results. Stop and ask yourself this simple question, “Am I just trying to prove I’m right, or am I actually trying to help someone?”. If you answer honestly it will make your Facebook drama almost non-existent. I hope that we as a society learn how to better use social media, instead of letting it use us.

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