Category: social media


I learned over the last few years, about the price one pays, to some degree, for living in a self-made political bubble.

I don’t know when it happened, probably somewhere during the early Bush years.  I slowly began to ensconce myself in politics, and it began to pick up speed, if you will, during the Obama years.  I went from being a “follower” of politics, to being more involved, to being totally immersed in what “my side” was up to, and how it was taking on the “other side”.  As social media began to rise, I began to follow, and comment on, and post almost purely political things. I didn’t realize how bad I had gotten, until one day, during a conversation with my mom, I launched into a rant about one political thing or another, and was literally yelling at my mom.  I don’t know why, but I was that wound up in it.  I was quoting websites, and blogs that I read.  Trying to make a point that my mom didn’t really care about.   To say that I upset her, is putting it mildly.  The upshot of the whole thing was I had not realized just how involved I had gotten in politics, and how much of my life was focused on whether or not something was in line with my political beliefs.  I analyzed TV shows, I analyzed books, and music, and movies, for anything that was not in line with my political beliefs.  In short, I had become insufferable to family, and even my kids and girlfriend.  I had always been “political” in that I had views, just like everyone else, however, what happened, is that those views became the end-all-be-all of my existence.  I began to think, somehow, that my views were necessary for my survival, and the survival of the country, well, a country containing all of the “right” people.  You know, the people who shared my views. I had surrounded myself with people who believed as I did, and ignored any counter arguments, or opinions that challenged what I believed to be true.  It didn’t matter that the argument presented was factual, what mattered was that it ran counter to my beliefs, and therefore, needed to be rejected.   It took a family gathering, where I managed to upset my entire family with a bunch of political remarks that managed to offend several people.  Shortly after that, I was talking with my mom, who informed me that because of my remarks at the previous gathering, discussing politics was off limits at the next gathering, and if I so much as brought it up, I would be asked to leave.

Now, you have to understand something.  My family is pretty easy going, and mostly laid back, and we can discuss many subjects reasonably, its how we were raised.  The problem with me was I was saying things without any regard for anyone else there, and practically demanding my view be accepted as the only correct one.   It is what woke me up to the way politics had consumed me.  My Facebook was full of nothing but political content, either groups I belonged to, or stuff I had posted myself.  My Twitter account was nothing but political follows, and my Twitter feed was an endless parade of memes, links to blogs, and news stories that favored my point of view.  I attacked anyone who posted content that ran counter to my beliefs, and by “attack” I meant I insulted, and belittled the person who dared to post something in opposition to me.  I didn’t offer a logical, cohesive counter-argument, I offered vitriol, because I believed that my position was the only one.  Now, note that I didn’t say someone posted disagreeing with my politics, no, they were in opposition to me.  To me.  That’s how deep I had gotten.  Someone who disagreed with my politics, was disagreeing with me, because I had become political.  It was all I was.  It was so bad, that my politics had pushed aside my faith in God, and every thing I had been taught. My religion, my values system my beliefs had been pushed aside, rather, replaced by my politics.  It was, at this time, I woke up and realized what I had become.  I was no longer me.  I had become a political creature.  This was all prior to the 2016 presidential race.  It was near the end of the Obama administration, and things were shaping up for 2016.

The other thing that woke me up, is a “news” story that I read.  The story was about a container ship that had sunk in the Indian Ocean.  The story breathlessly related that the container ship was loaded with weapons and other support for the Syrian rebels, that had been approved by Obama.  I read the story, and in a moment of clarity, I realized the story was fake  Using Google image search, I found another story, from 2014, featuring the same photo of the sinking ship.  The ship had sunk in the Indian Ocean, that much was true, however, it had nothing to do with Syria, the rebels, or, Obama approving any kind of support for them.  The ship had broken up and sunk because it was old, and the shipping line that owned it was going to de-commission it at the end of the voyage it was on.   Here I was, so committed to my side, to my politics, that I believed every story that I read, everything put out by my side had to be the truth, because we were right, we were the only ones with the correct ideas, with the correct solutions to the country’s problems.  Yet, here was a group, a “news” source that I followed that I had believed without question, posting a story that was, to use today’s vernacular “Fake News”. It pissed me off.  It really pissed me off.  I began digging into the some of the stories that were posted by other groups. I began to find more of the same.

In the coming weeks, logic broke through.  I began to evaluate my subscriptions, the groups I belonged to, the “news” sites I followed, and even some of the bloggers I followed.  I stopped using Facebook for anything other than keeping up with friends, and activities within my Amateur Radio group as well as the hobby in general. I cleared my Twitter feed of all the political follows with the exception of a couple.  I began following people based on anything but politics, and in some cases, they were people I had followed because of their politics, but quickly realized that politics aside, they were funny, interesting, and decent people.  I also discovered that I could disagree with people, and not let it anger me.  I ignored people who tried to engage.  I quit paying attention to my mentions, and I was much better for it.

When the presidential race began to heat up, I distanced myself further, I stayed away from debate and discussing the candidates, because I thoroughly disliked both of them, and I couldn’t see any profit in taking a side.  So I let it be.  I still read other’s opinions, but I didn’t engage. I did know I didn’t want Hilary as President, but I could not get behind Trump, and that’s where I left it.  I stayed away from the arguments because they were everything I used to be, and everything I used to post.  Anger, insults, and no regard for anyone else’s humanity.

Politics is poison.  When your politics becomes your life, when everything you say, do, and get involved is nothing but politics, it ruins your life.  When you base someone’s worth on who they voted for, and ignore everything about them, you are short-changing yourself, and you have become unbearable. Whether or not you like Trump or hate him, or any other office holder, for that matter, is one thing, letting that admiration, or disgust dictate how you feel about family and friends, and is the deciding factor on continuing or discontinuing that relationship, then, you are the one with the problem.  No politician, or political cause is worth severing family, marital, or friendship ties over.

Back off, take a breath, re-evaluate, look at your life, and things around you.  Friends, and family are far more important than politics, or activism, or anything else. When the dust settles, and things have moved on, all you will have left is your family and friends.

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I rarely interact on Social Media, especially on Facebook.  I hang out on Twitter, comment from time to time, but I avoid arguments, and disagreements at all costs.

Why?

I am tired of it.  Since November of 2016, I do little more than read others people’s FB posts, I almost never post to my timeline.  For me, there is precious little that is worth reading any longer, and, add to that, there is nothing worth responding to.   All I ever see is the latest “I hate Trump” or “MAGA” type post. Or the latest “Anti gun” or “Pro 2A” post.  The problem with the posts are not the content, but, rather the attitude with which they are served up.  It’s a “this is what I believe, and f*** you and go to hell if you don’t agree”  No one has rational discussions any longer, and I do mean no one.

I am also tired of the conspiracy theories surrounding, well, you name it; Las Vegas, Parkland, Newtown, etc. etc.  The worst part about all of this, is these posts are coming from people that I know to be intelligent, and, I thought, reasonable.  Many of them old classmates, and others that I have known for 30 years.  Politics, and one’s political views have become the yardstick, (and with some people the only yardstick used to measure someone’s worth.) .  I have witnessed lifelong friendships come to an end, over a vote, or a political stance.  There is no “opinion” any more, there is “My post is irrefutable fact, and f*** you if you don’t think it’s true”.  People post things that they find, somewhere in the deep, dark bowels of the internet, as truth.  Not only truth, but incontrovertible, irrefutable, truth, because their favorite website, blogger, or pundit said it.  In this day and age, it’s not “for” or “against”, no.  It’s “you must believe or you are a heretic, and must be destroyed”.  It happens on both sides.

If you are pro 2nd Amendment, you are branded a “baby killer”, an “NRA Terrorist” or you “Support the murder of children” and the ownership of “weapons of war”.  If you want support Gun Control, then you area “gun grabbing communist” or a “traitor”, or an “anti-freedom leftist”.  No quarter is given in these arguments.  There is no discourse, only insults, and if it’s a woman posting her support of  2A, it’s the most vile sexual type of insults I have ever seen.  There are threats, and more insults.  Hashtags are thrown around like so many bean bags.  Frequently posts are in all caps, as people become more and more unhinged.  Eventually the donnybrook loses steam, and everyone is on to something else, but not before feelings are hurt, anger flairs and relationships are strained, if not broken.  I am amazed at the hurtful things people, especially family members, say to one another over a discussion of politics.  Isn’t family supposed to be better than that?  It is the disagreement that severe that some stop talking to siblings or parents?  How crappy is that?  I don’t always agree with my brothers, or my sister, but I would never, ever stop talking to them over their stance on something.  My dad, if he were still among us, would not stand for it.  I feel bad for those people who feel that a relationship, especially a long-term one, be it familial or romantic, has to end, because of a political opinion.

I hate all of the stupid fighting, and when one side presents the other with facts, then the arguing switches to whose “facts” are more factual.  We get our news and information from many sources these days, unfortunately, we all know about “fake news”, and in many cases, the “facts” as presented, depending on which “side” is presenting them can vary.  In more than a few cases, news sites will post a story, and include facts that only support their side of the argument, then other people quote that source as being proof that they are right, while the other side of the argument cites a story about the same issue from a news site, or blogger, or pundit, that includes information that supports what they have to say.  It’s exhausting.  Woe to the person who enters into the fray, in an attempt to be reasonable, cites a balanced story on the issue, then they get torn into from both sides.  The worst part about all of it, are the vile insults that people hurl at one another, either strangers they don’t know, or people that they do.  It’s unreal, and it almost hurts to watch it.

An example of what I describe above, goes like this:  I will use the latest raging debate over guns, that is burning up social media.

Friend A; (a long time friend of mine) Posted a story about a study done by two criminologists, citing the number of times a gun is used to defend life and property, and stops a crime in progress.  He posted his comments, as well as a link to the study, so anyone reading his post can avail themselves of the information, and read the study in it’s entirety.   Several people posted comments after reading the story, and the study.  The comments are all positive.

Stranger A:  this person pops up in a comment, after a news story that this person believes “debunks” the study by the two criminologists.  The news story takes the study to task, and selectively cites facts that support the gun control side of the argument.  So Stranger A, goes off on a paragraph long screed about the NRA, and evil corporations funding gun companies, buying politicians, and etc, etc, etc.  Friend A politely asks Stranger A to read the study.  Stranger A replies he doesn’t need to because the article he read speaks for itself, and he knows the study was funded by the NRA and the gun makers (it wasn’t) so, of course it is going to back up their claims.

It’s this kind of attitude, the “If you are against gun control, you are for the deaths of children” is really rather tiresome, and it is a tactic used by many in an argument to deflect from their arguments shaky ground.  It is also used as a way to end the argument, because the tactic forces the other person to argue that they are not “for the killing of children”, which then puts the anti-gun person on the offensive.  Or, it forces the other person to walk away from the argument, because it just got stupid.  The tactic is designed to shut down debate, and silence opposition.  People on both sides use it.  It’s not a “left” or “right” thing.  So, the above exchange over the study went back and  forth, but the problem is, everyone wound up arguing with Stranger A about how they are not for the killing of children.  It was several comments before someone else got the argument back on track.

The point of the anecdote above is an example of what typically happens on social media.  The other phenomenon is the habit among many to read the headline of a posted story, and then comment on the inaccuracy of the story   It is embarrassing when someone I know, and always figured was intelligent, decides to go off on an article they did not even read, and puts their intellectual laziness on display.  It is amazing to me how little there is in the way of critical thinking.  What ever happened to analysis, reading comprehension, and logical thought?

It is indeed sad, that the current level of debate on Twitter, and Facebook resembles an argument between a bunch of 12 year old kids on the school playground.  It really is.  The crises that face this nation are not going to get solved by emotional outbursts, name calling or finger-pointing.  The problem is, no one wants to hear the other side out.  It is as if we all want our side to be the only one that prevails.  When you get right down to it, the truth to just about any of the issues is much more nuanced, it hardly black and white.  In the studies mentioned in my anecdote, each one can, when facts and passages in the study are cherry-picked and taken out of context, support either the pro-gun, or the anti-gun side of the argument.  However, that kind of cherry picking does little to shed light on the problem of violence in this country, and what effective steps can be taken to curb the violence.   The same could be said of any study, on any of the issues that face the nation.  The sad fact is, that any side in an any argument wants to be the “only” side that is right.  It’s as if being right, and defeating one’s enemies is more important than solving, or working towards solving an issue.  “All or nothing” rarely works.  When one takes a position that the only way to solve an issue is an “all or nothing” solution, then people on the other side of the issue, are going to be unwilling to talk, much less compromise, or reach an agreement.  This is also how fights start, because once an argument gets to the point where one side feels compelled to use force to convince the other side, then all is lost.

All I know is, and I urge my kids to do this all of the time;  If you are going to debate a question, come to the table with facts, and research, and also come to the table with an understanding demeanor.  Disagreement is not a personal attack.  One can understand the other side’s point of view, without resorting to personal attacks, name calling, and the like.  If you have made your point, and the other person, or group, still disagrees, then, move on.  You have made your point, you stood by your argument, and that’s it.  One cannot change another’s mind, well, can rarely change it.  The most that can be done is “agree to disagree” and move on.  There is nothing wrong with that, either.  Everyone has different beliefs on everything, from the big issues of the day, to the question of whether or not a hot dog is a sandwich. (it’s not.  Stating my position right now) or whether or not ketchup belongs on that same hot dog (It doesn’t, at least if you bought it from a hot dog stand.  If you made it at home, then, ketchup is permissible).  It is those differences that make us who we are, and one is not “less” because one believes differently than someone else on any given subject.  We sometimes forget we are human, and we should never dehumanize someone else over a disagreement  Ever.  It’s wrong, and leads to all kinds of scary things on a larger scale.

For those interested.  The link posted by my friend is below.  Read it and decide.  The article cites at least 3 studies and has links to them.  Read it.  Thank you.  Article my friend posted  I offer no opinions here.