I’m okay with politics in my newsfeed.
I’ve seen several people say otherwise. And I’ve often said your social media is your own, which means you can and should shape the individual experience you want by unfollowing, unfriending, or changing your filters to get rid of trolls or inputs that no longer serve you in a constructive way.
But I want to explain why the unprecedented nature of our current climate in America makes me not only believe it’s okay to sit with some discomfort in your social media feeds right now, but it’s essential.
Social Media as A Change Catalyst
Many of us in this space have made a living explaining to individuals and businesses why social media can and should be powerful and transformational for them. We talk about the amplification, the reach, the ability for communities to convene and dialogue to carry over geographies and time and happen in ways we never could have imagined a decade ago.
When the Arab Spring revolution happened, we added that case study our arsenal. We proudly stood on stages and pointed to that communication as revolutionary, as the ability for democracy to shine, at the true power of assembly and free speech and peaceful revolution.
Hell, we still cite that damned Oreo cookie during a Super Bowl as some how “revolutionary”.
So I’m not sure why we’re not okay with that now when so much more is at stake.
We are at a critical tipping point in our own country’s future. Regardless of which side of the aisle you find yourself on, this is a pivotal moment in America as we wrestle with the kinds of values and policies we want to put out into the world, and which we’re okay with attaching to our history of freedom and democracy.
Social media has the opportunity to realize the potential we’ve bragged about for so long in a meaningful, historical, powerful way.
Discomfort Is Essential
While I still believe that you should be able to remove people who are abusive, harassing and otherwise harmful from your midst, I can’t make that choice for myself when it comes to political discourse.
I have a lot of different perspectives present on my social channels. Some of them make me angry. Some make me fearful. Some give me hope. Others provide some levity, perspective, humor, insight or other input that I don’t get in other places.
The ability to completely remove critical dialogue from these places and wash them clean of stories and discussions that make me uncomfortable to me feels like the very height of my white, middle-class privilege. And now more than ever, I don’t think doing that serves a purpose other than to blind me to what’s really happening “out there” beyond my comfortable suburban life.
The purest expressions of our democracy in terms of free speech, free press, and resistance and criticism of our government are essential things right now. And I want to see them.
It’s Not About Changing Minds
Many folks decry the political discussion because they say no one has ever changed their political views because of a social media post.
I’m not so sure I agree.
I know I’ve had my personal horizons broadened by writing and discourse shared through my friends that I may have not found on my own. I have had thoughtful dialogue that made me stop and consider how I view the world. I have heard the voices of people far less privileged than I am share their experiences, and they have changed my behavior as a direct result of their bravery in sharing. I have listened, watched, discussed, and taken action – in the form of advocacy, donations, participation and adding my own voice – as a direct result of the communities I am part of online, including my own personal Facebook feed.
Maybe our minds aren’t changed in an instant because of a single tweet or post. But over time, if we’re willing to listen to what’s out there, we may be able to shape, refine and more thoroughly educate ourselves about perspectives other than our own. And THAT is what changes minds.
But let’s pretend for a moment that changing minds truly is impossible. Aren’t we just shouting into the void? Whining with our shrill anger and fear and contempt?
No. Because social media doesn’t always have to be about convincing someone.
Perhaps it’s the rallying cry for those that are not in need of convincing.
The Women’s March on Washington, while imperfect in many ways, was a testament to the assembly power of our nation fueled in part by social media. Alternative Twitter accounts are cropping up for government agencies who feel as though facts are being suppressed. Photos are shared. Evidence is captured and debated and verified.
In a distributed world that often feels disconnected, finding those that share our values and experiences across borders and time zones is amazingly powerful. Solidarity matters. Representation and inclusion matters. Perhaps now more than ever before.
So I may not change a single mind with my posts online, but I will find my allies, my advocates, my tribe. I will find causes and other groups that I can and feel driven to support. I will find those who would resist oppression and champion diversity and freedom, and those are the kinds of people I want more of in my midst.
But the professional risk!
Sure, it’s a risk to speak about politics online. Maybe I won’t get that next keynote gig. Maybe a potential employer will find me too outspoken or opinionated (not the one I work for, however, because they’re a progressive and forward-thinking lot and I keep my posts respectful).
I’m okay with those consequences.
If my standing up, speaking out and peacefully participating in the dialogues that are important to me, important to my and my daughter’s future, and important to my country has consequences, I will gladly accept them. Because my professional self is but one small dimension of who I am. I am a human first. A citizen of the United States of America. I’m a mom. A daughter. A writer. And I care about what’s happening around me.
So please, keep putting your thoughts in my feed in the respectful, thoughtful way you’ve been doing. Please keep making me think. Please keep making me pause to consider something I hadn’t before. Please keep stirring the pot and standing up for what you believe and sharing the words and ideas that form the foundation of the country you want to live in. I want to see and hear and read them.
Discomfort is the foundation of democracy. It always has been, from the day we vandalized a bunch of ships and threw crates of tea in the harbor. Nothing worthwhile ever comes out of comfort and complacency.
I’m going to keep speaking, sharing, writing, thinking, and discussing. And I hope you will, too.