I really didn’t want to write about the election this week. Yes, it’s a huge deal, our country has declared a new president who will foreseeably be with us for the next four years, and this man has said extremely offensive and frankly scary things about practically everyone besides straight, white, wealthy men (of which he happens to be), but already nearly every perspective on the matter has been expressed and my personal opinion, which I typically try not to involve in my writing, is relatively obsolete. As a white, upper-middle-class, queer woman I do have some reasons to be concerned about Trump as president, but not nearly as many as other people, and by writing this I’m merely contributing to a culture of self-importance which ultimately drowns out the voices of those who are legitimately affected.
Clark University, the school I am proud to attend, is extremely liberal and as such, took the results of the election extremely hard. Each of my professors spoke about the results, one leading us through yoga exercises to relieve stress, another discussing the ideology that led to Trump’s success, a third moved to tears the morning after the election. Outside of class, everyone I know is talking about the election and many people have taken to social media to voice their opinions. While in many cases these posts are heartfelt, empathetic, and open-minded, many are very much not so. I have seen a number of hateful posts toward Trump supporters, people who didn’t vote, and people who voted for third party candidates, and while many people are sharing stories of hate crimes and violence in Trump’s name, others are sharing stories of attacks on Trump supporters; the hate goes both ways. One sentiment I personally felt and have seen repeated again and again is outright shock regarding Trump’s win, raising the question, how did this happen?
Checking the results of the election for the first time, I could hardly believe it; everything I had seen on social media and nearly everyone I had talked to in person believed Hillary would win. The misnomer was that while the popular personalities speaking online were for the most part anti-Trump, as were most millennial perspectives I saw on social media, many of the people who voted for Trump seem not to have been very vocal about it over the Internet. The term I’ve heard recently is “the silent majority”, and in this culture where sharing opinions virtually is so popular and widespread especially amongst younger people, this created an atmosphere of dissonance where popular opinion seemed to be one way and was, in reality, another. Further, people tend to be exposed to opinions that they already believe online within their social circles, most not going out of their way to find contrary opinions. While access to a variety of opinions may be increased in the digital age, exposure has not necessarily followed.
I see the use of social media as public and widespread forums for discussion as an extremely positive thing, but with this election, it has raised some questions for me personally regarding the worth of this method of sharing. People have strongly held beliefs, post about them online, and then interact with others who see their posts and feel the need to comment, often resulting in either total agreement or heated arguments. Odyssey itself advertises as an opinion sharing platform and I fully expect for my Facebook feed to be flooded with shared articles in the next few days, but are peoples’ minds really being changed or are we simply reaffirming our own beliefs by running every opinion we see through our preexisting code of values? The truth is somewhere in the middle and as far as I can see a little empathy goes a long way in the aftermath of this election.