Monday, March 6, 2017

Social Media and Politics

The current political climate has made social media kind of tricky. And prickly. In more genial times, social media tends to be a mostly superfluous time waster full of cat videos and people trying to sell you stuff. Which is not to say that it's not still those things but, now, it's also full of political controversy, fake news, and hurt feelings.

Of course, part of the beauty of social media is that it can be used for all of those things or none of those things. It can be a great tool or just a way to keep in contact with people. All of which is also part of the ugliness of social media.

And all of which is a bit beside the point while also still being part of the point.

I've been on social media for a while now -- haven't we all? -- but, more importantly, I've been using social media for the vast majority of that time. Yes, I'm drawing a distinction between merely being on social media and using social media. "Everyone" is on social media, but most people don't use it. Or, at least, they haven't been. However, with the new political awareness that's happening, there is an accompanying call for more people to shift from just being on social media to actually using it for more than just being connected to people and posting memes.

And some people are... trepidatious... about that, about stepping up and putting social media to a use beyond just on. Not to mention the people who aren't even on social media suddenly being asked to develop a presence there.

With that in mind, here's a brief guide to the use of social media in the age of politics (from someone who in no way claims to be an expert at social media):

1. Be aware of the consequences.
Yes, there will be consequences, almost certainly. The least of these will be that people with whom you have been "friends", and even actual friends, possibly for years and years, will unfriend you (or unfollow you or whatever the applicable term is for your platform). This could be because they have philosophical differences with your political position or affiliation, or it could be for the simple reason that they don't want to see political posts because they've decided that they're too negative and would rather bury their heads in the sand and only watch the aforementioned cat videos. However, you could also be harassed by people who don't agree with you or even threatened. This is the kind of thing many people don't stop to think about ahead of time and, then, are surprised when it happens, so it's better to know what you're getting into.
2. Know your message and choose the social media platform that best supports that message.
This part is on you to do your research and to know what it is you want to accomplish. Do you write long-winded essays declaring your views to the world? Twitter probably isn't for you as a primary platform. Do you caption pictures, turning them into funny memes? Maybe you want to look at snapchat. Really, though, choose a platform that supports your message and what you want to accomplish.
3.  Along with that, know your audience and use the platform most likely to reach them.
There's nuance here between #2 and #3 that I'm not going to spend the time to try to explain, right now, but, to put it simply, if you're trying to reach people like me, snapchat is not the platform you want to use. Snapchat might be the platform most suited to your message, but, if I'm your audience, you're not going to reach me. You need to, as much as possible, harmonize your message to your audience and to the platform best suited for both.
4. Join groups.
Find some political action groups on your chosen platform(s) that have similar agenda items and become active in them. They can be a great support system and provide ideas you might not think of.

In no way is this list comprehensive, but it should help point you in the right direction.


  1. This post had me like...

    (Since I'm already "woke" [as the cool, politically awakened kids would call it] and I find no use in arguing on Facebook with people who are still gargling fake news like it's toilet wine, you can find me blissfully in the "hilarious cat videos" section)

    1. ABftS: Gargling toilet wine...
      I have no response to that.

  2. Honestly, the reason I don't say more is because of how prevalent the harassment has gotten. It's a hell of a lot harder when you're a woman and want to be vocal.

  3. Facebook is exhausting these days, even when I am reading the posts of people I agree with. The cat videos can be a welcome escape.

    1. TAS: I've gotten to where I am using it mostly as a source for articles I want to read. Articles from legitimate news sources, that is.

    2. For me, it's still the best way to keep in touch with as many old friends as possible. But I do get sucked into the politics... and the cat videos.

    3. TAS: Too many of my old friends are Trump supporters, and I've discovered I don't care to keep in touch with them.