Particularly during election season, college students find themselves bored in class, scrolling through Facebook, and sharing various videos and articles on each of the candidates and the varied, politically polarizing political happenings across the country. There’s nothing quite like finding a clever argument against the opposing side of the political spectrum and sharing it for all of your friends to see just how stupid, bigoted, or evil your political opposites truly are!
It seems that we all derive some sort of twisted sense of pleasure when we feel that we’ve made our ideological opposition look stupid. Whether it’s a Tomi Lahren rant, an Occupy Democrats post, or a Samantha Bee monologue, there is one thing that remains constant: Each of these types of posts seek to oversimplify the opposing argument to the point of ridicule.
What does this accomplish? There’s no intellectually substantial conversation that takes place in a one minute video or a captioned collage of pictures. There’s nothing to be gained except for a pittance of likes and shares. The only thing this accomplishes is solidifying the belief that anyone who disagrees with you is either stupid, ignorant, racist, homophobic, or any other vile title that you could apply to your peers.
It’s a race to the bottom while any semblance of intelligent discussion is left in the dust. In fact, often times you find yourself in vicious arguments with your peers in the comments section, with each successive comment more polarizing than the next.
A recent video I saw from Planned Parenthood suggested that vice presidential nominee Mike Pence had mental issues for wanting to defund Planned Parenthood and that he actually had an obsession with defunding the organization. While the video accurately portrayed his position on the organization, they completely ignored any reasoning behind it. From my own experience, I’ve observed that most conservatives are opposed to taxpayer money funding organizations that perform abortions because there is a substantial portion of the taxpaying population that is opposed to abortion (funny how that works, huh?). That argument was actually addressed in the video (kind of). It was countered by bringing up Title X, a federal law which states that federal funds cannot be used to fund abortion.
The conclusion made at this point was that Mike Pence wished to prevent low-income women from having cancer screenings. Without being presumptuous, I think most reasonable people should be able to conclude that this is indeed false. The argument to defund the organization despite Title X is as follows: If federal funding for the non-controversial functions of the organization is cut, then they will divert funding from abortions back to things such as mammograms and other cancer screenings, provided this is what they are actually prioritizing. This is a viable point that should be addressed if you are seeking to discuss the issue with any intellectual integrity; however, this was clearly not the purpose of the video, or of many similar videos and posts from other political accounts, for that matter.
The purpose is merely to create outrage, to get people angry, to make you forget to think. Unfortunately, as we’re scrolling through our news feeds, political posts achieve exactly this. I’m writing this from a conservative perspective and, admittedly, I see my own beliefs attacked much more often on social media seeing as most of my peers are liberal-leaning, particularly here at Michigan. However, this is not to say that conservatives don’t act similarly on Facebook. It is not to say that I myself am not guilty of sharing content reflective of what I have just argued against. My point is simply this: the smug self-satisfaction gained from hitting that share button won’t get you anywhere in life. It won’t teach you anything. Rather than seeking that sense of gratification when you share a video of your political opposites saying something stupid out of context, have a civil conversation with somebody who disagrees with you. Step away from the safety of your keyboard and your like-minded peers. Expose yourself to the complex arguments that could potentially undermine your own beliefs. Explain your position to them. Listen to the reasoning behind their opinions. Maybe you’ll learn something. Maybe you’ll find common ground. If you want to see political progress and productivity, move past the petty, thick-headed discourse of social media and do something that concedes a shred of respect to your own intellect. Get off Facebook.