Social media is about lines — the connections between users, the link between how one’s feed reflects their interactions with a platform. But the most important lines in social media are those that create unity and interaction, rather than those that divide.
I believe that elected Utah officials must preserve the unifying lines in order to foster connection and conversation, to pool our strengths and better confront the pandemic and other issues.
As cases of COVID-19 rise in Utah, it is essential to foster compassion and connection rather than division. Utah elected officials' posts on social platforms are a reflection of who those officials are, and thus represent the office meant to represent and protect the people of Utah. Politicians should recognize that they thus hold an influential position on social media — they have the opportunity and responsibility to use their platforms to promote the public good by preventing division, not facilitating it.
Although many Utah leaders have been upholding these duties during the pandemic, some officials are promoting division through the misconception that public health and the economy are mutually exclusive. For example, some representatives have lamented economic shutdowns instituted to protect public health (while ignoring the health aspect) or have downplayed the seriousness of the virus. Others have gone so far as to call the situation a conspiracy designed to decrease President Trump’s chances of reelection.
I think that posts like these intend to divide Utah’s population by asserting that health and the economy are independent factors in order to divide the population into separate, opposing camps. As for the conspiracy theory, I believe that it wrongly politicizes this crisis to further divide Utahns along partisan lines.
What these politicians must realize (and what they need to promote within public discourse) is that the economy and public health are mutually reliant. Without a robust economy, public well-being suffers because of unemployment and other such effects. Without a healthy population, there are fewer leaders, workers and consumers to fuel the economy.
Elected leaders need to highlight the symbiotic relationship between public health and the economy on social platforms — by creating unity between these two ideas, and their now divided constituency, they can improve the public health, and consequently, the economy.
In the long term, the way to rebuild relies on improving both the public health and the economy. This ideal can only be achieved through a unified Utah — in order to consolidate the two dependent factors of public health and economy, we must first consolidate ourselves.
If public officials push misinformation and conspiracy theories, they demonstrate intent of creating division among those they are supposed to represent, and thus show abuse of their governmental and social media power.
Government officials should use social media to help both Utahns and the economy by promoting the general public health. I believe that elected leaders should use social networks to foster facts and hope. Now is a time for unity and empathy, not division, and the way leaders use social media should manifest that.
Elected officials must use social platforms to enhance connection among Utah’s population, not to foster ignorance and hate that exacerbates division. The more divided Utah’s population, the less willing each citizen is to act to help other Utahns.
Social media is a powerful tool that officials should use to unite the people and create compassion among them in order to build a stronger Utah community that is more adept at facing challenges together. Utah leaders must use social networks to foster the interconnected lines the platforms intended to create; it is only through the connections of common humanity that we can achieve true progress, during the pandemic and beyond.
Chiara Kim is a former policy intern at Alliance for a Better Utah and is a senior at Rowland Hall.