Is Social Media an Effective Medium for Expressing Political Views?

How many times a day do you scroll through your Facebook feed? A Nielsen Company audience report found that adults in the United States spend over ten hours a day consuming media. Social media attracts the attention of an extremely wide age span, and is heavily integrated into our everyday lives through both personal and commercial use. As teenagers, many students at GDS use social media every day, and often personal opinions, such as political affiliations, can become a recurrent theme in one’s social media feed.

It is another common theme on social media to get into arguments online with people who have different opinions than your own. When commenting on someone’s Facebook post or tweeting back at someone, it is important to engage in constructive criticism, not just tear apart opinions that are not your own. As people have turned to platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, to share their opinions, Donald Trump’s campaign and presidency are evidence that social media and politics are more intertwined more than ever.

Senior Paula Gil-Ordoñez Gomez believes “social media, especially Facebook, is a great way to get educated.” According to Forbes Magazine, on Election Day alone there were over 716 million interactions (posts, comments, likes, shares) that had some relation to the presidential election. Dissenters were present on both Clinton’s and Trump’s sides, and often translated their deep hatred for their candidate’s opponent into angry posts and social media fights. This animosity resulted in unproductive arguments and blatant disregard for personal opinions.

Using social media to express political opinions can be extremely productive but only when used respectfully. As Manning Martus ‘17 stressed, “both sides have to be open to listening to the other side.” Gomez added to this idea by explaining how “getting stuck in your own ideas is the most dangerous thing.” A key idea that must be present when discussion occurs is to remember, as Gomez said, “not every Trump supporter is a bigot, and not every liberal is crazy.”

A common tendency on social media is to ignore an idea with which one disagrees. When asked about making the decision to unfollow someone on Facebook, Gomez responded, “as time went by, I stopped [unfollowing people] because I am really interested to see what they’re saying,” and she continued by saying, “there’s a reason that Trump is our president.”

Gomez is referring to the people who voted for Trump, and by reading their opinions on social media, she is able to gain deeper insight into why they may have voted for Trump. Unfollowing a person who disagrees with you can be counterintuitive, because the goal of posting on social media should be to learn about other people’s opinions and hopefully grow as a person. However, it is completely reasonable to unfollow someone who is outwardly disrespectful to others when commenting on or posting their opinion.

As President of the United States, Trump represents the American people, and thus his use of social media reflects its widespread use throughout the country. Trump uses his Twitter account almost daily. Martus explained Trump’s “rise to power,” saying “in a way, he has defied every odd and does everything totally unconventionally.” Our president’s misuse of social media platforms is mirrored back to us in everything from divisive media firestorms to late-night comedy skits, and as this pattern continues, social media will continue to generate conflict. The abundance of social media platforms coupled with the divide in our country only heightens the misuse of social media.

Social media users need to understand that their opinion is not always right, and disrespecting each other must end in order for social media to help express one’s own opinions. As Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook said, “when you give everyone a voice and give people power, the system usually ends up in a really good place.” So, let us not abuse that power that social media has given us. Users should be both mindful and respectful when posting, commenting or engaging on any platform.

By: Hannah Plotnek