February 8, 2017

This is a deep post. Because social media has taken a turn that is unhealthy and unsustainable. We, as a nation, need to stop feeding a political climate that is divisive and will, eventually, destroy this country from the inside.

I didn't want to talk politics on the blog too much. This originated as a "writing blog," long ago, before I realized that there are a million and one writing blogs out there and they tend to all say the same things in different ways (which is, in fact, writing). There are also a million and one political blogs, and they are probably split 50/50 in what they say over and over in different ways.

This is my blog, however, and its the only blog that will talk Rachel Mercaldo with any level of accuracy.  And when something bothers me to this point, it deserves to be on the blog.

To begin, I tend to read Twitter and FB posts more often than I post them. I check in with the world based on the trending topics and hashtags, and often close out the page in horror. I read what my "friends" think on various subjects and wonder exactly why I connected with them on a website to begin with, especially when we think such disparate things and never talk unless we are arguing over some news article.

Today, I got on Twitter and clicked on one of the trends. What I saw was sad. People were using the hashtag to talk politics, pushing their views into a conversation that originally had nothing to do with politics. This is like a hashtag #CutePuppy turning into someone saying Catholics are hypocritical and should embrace homosexuality.

 There is no reason to do this. You want to talk politics? You want to change the world? Here are the ground rules that we need to start following.
  • Do not bring it up unless the other person wants to talk about it. This one *should* be obvious. This is like any other conversation you've ever had. You can't kidnap someone and force your opinions upon them. If you sense hesitancy, don't speak. If no one ever shares, likes, or comments on your countless posts, stop posting so many. You are just shouting at a world that isn't listening. Save it for the important times.
  •  Do not assume people agree with you. I work and study in the field of Public Health. Public Health is a very liberal field. I am not liberal. Please do not interrupt a politics-free thread to share with "like-minded people" how you felt about the morning news.
  • Do not  form an opinion without research. In the words of a Penn State professor I loved: "How dare you have an opinion on a subject you know nothing about." You may say everyone has the right to their own opinion. This is true. But opinions are, by nature, informed views. And reading headlines is not informing yourself. Do not comment on a Trump executive order until you have, yourself, read the executive order in its entirety.
  •  Do not create hashtags that skew the facts. We all want more followers and friends. We all want to go viral (not really). That doesn't mean a hashtag like #BanMuslims is going to help anything. For one, no executive order has actually "banned" Muslims, and you should also realize refugees and immigrants are two different sets of people. See the previous bullet point. For another one, you can't have a conversation in hashtags, particularly when you are already limited to 140 characters and issues are important enough to not be summed up in one or two words.
  • Do not demonize your opponent. Neither the right nor the left nor the middle nor the north nor the south are evil. You may find them uneducated. You may even find them "stupid" or otherwise resistant to reason. That does not mean they hate anyone, or want people to suffer, or want the country to fall to ruin. They probably believe their way is the only way to save the nation they love, in the same way you feel your way is the only way. 
  • Do not talk about more than one topic at a time. Upset about executive orders? Upset about supreme court nominations? Upset about no federal funding for abortions? These all have one thing in common, and it isn't Trump. It is November 8th, 2016. The nation did not just elect Trump but also elected enough republicans for a mandate - regardless of the presidential popular vote. Chances are, the person you are talking to has strong views about the three things listed here. Don't try to talk about all of them. Pick one. "Women's rights" includes a lot of material. I probably agree that women deserve equal pay for equal work (within reason. I fully believe I don't argue for raises as often as a man would and that isn't a man's fault but my own. I also understand my employer has no desire to pay me any more than they absolutely have to, so they aren't going to go out of their way to say "so-and-so asked for a raise and you should too."). The point is that if you are arguing pay equality, abortion isn't part of that conversation.
  • Do not assume you are right. This leads to the research point. True learning about any topic, skill, or concept is first acknowledging that you might be wrong. Getting the most out of a book, class, or entire degree or certification is first thinking the author or instructor is wrong and going out to prove that the knowledge being spoon-fed to you is correct. Take the same view with your own opinion. Look at American history. Take a good look at your party. Review the topic with your religious leader. Don't assume.  
  • Do not interrupt. Listen. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Listen to others the way you want to be listened to. Put yourselves in their shoes and try, really try, to see things their way and then reevaluate your own opinion. There is no reason to reject a thought offhand. If your original opinion was correct, no harm will be done by considering another one. If it was incorrect, it is better to know now that to continue living in the dark.
  • Do not read posts like this and try to adapt them to "win an argument." This post is about how to view and discuss an idea. This is not about how to win people to your side. That attitude is what is wrong with this world. Stop trying to shock, scare, shame, or persuade people into thinking you are right. Instead, offer your educated opinion (researched and vetted) and invite responses. 
The internet is a beautiful, scary thing. You have the ability to chat with people from all over the world.  Use the ability wisely.