It’s the booming question, “Do you like Donald Trump?”
If you say yes, you’re a bigoted racist. If you say no, you’re an un-American socialist. And, somehow, this question automatically places you in a political party. How do you respond to such a loaded question?
We’re left to defend our beliefs over and over again, never really getting anywhere, always circling back to the beginning. I call this a circular argument. We are so set in our political affiliation that right and wrong are parallel with conservative and liberal, and our mindsets are not easily swayed.
Political affiliation has nothing to do with one’s self-worth or character, or at least we shouldn’t allow it to. John Adams warned that a two-party political system would be the “greatest political evil under our Constitution.” Our nation has completely ignored Adam’s admonition.
I’m not suggesting that we abolish political parties or all social media platforms. Political parties are essential to a free country. However, I am suggesting that social media has created a platform for unnecessary, circular arguments.
We can certainly control who we follow on our social media platforms, and who we follow are great influences to us, whether they be political or not.
“In the past two decades, the percentage of Americans who consistently hold liberal or conservative beliefs … has jumped from 10 percent to over 20. At the same time, beliefs about the other side are becoming more negative,” says a recent article in The Greater Good Magazine . The magazine also mentioned that we live in “filter bubbles.” The majority of us follow people who think the way we do, support the same things and, in general, are somewhat similar to us. We hardly ever purposefully follow the “other side.” However, we all have that one friend who’s constantly posting her idiotic political views, and we just have to say something, right?
Do you say something? Most could agree it’s a lot easier to type than to speak in person, especially on difficult topics. Many people are timid to have an open conversation about politics, but they find posting about it or liking it on Facebook much less daunting.
When social media users are so open and blatant, it brings up a lot of discussion, specifically disputation. We end up with a lot of “brave” Americans arguing their point with usually no solution at hand. We start this cycle of arguments that really do not get anyone anywhere.
We are all guilty. I’ve seen it in myself. I hear something from a political leader that I agree with, and I assume all they are saying is reasonably trustworthy. I then read something from a political leader with opposing views, and I automatically doubt their accuracy. It could be on something that isn’t political whatsoever, and we still choose to blindly agree with someone with the same political standards as us.
Cass Sunstein and Tali Sharot, legal and neuroscience scholars, tested “who participants would turn to for advice in categorizing geometric shapes — an obviously non-political task … this study found, participants preferred to seek advice from people who held similar political views, deciding that they must be more competent — despite evidence to the contrary!”
This just proves that we have a bias to certain people, solely based on their political beliefs. It’s like our letting a teacher perform our surgery — where she clearly is not qualified — because she’s conservative, so she would obviously do a more efficient job than our liberal surgeon. It sounds outrageous, but we all have these same tendencies. The more affixed and rooted we become in our political opinions, the more common this extreme bias becomes.
Here’s the solution. We don’t have to voice our opinion on everything. We don’t even need to have an opinion on everything. It is perfectly acceptable to not share our opinions on every political post on our Facebook.
Of course, at times we might feel passionate about something, and we just feel that obligation to speak, well, type. I just invite us all to remember, the next time we get that impulse to tell our friend that “she doesn’t support women if she’s pro-life,” we are not talking to a computer screen, and words really do hurt.
We don’t know why some people think the way they do. And, just because someone associates themselves with certain political beliefs, it does not reflect their character. Ideally, most Americans want the same thing for each other; we just have different ideas on how to get there. Let’s all do ourselves a solid, and think before the next time we type.
Kate McInnes is a freshmen attending Brigham Young University.