After a discussion of this lovely Presidential election in my political communication class, I reflected on my own views of these candidates and how in the world we ended up with these two. I’m sure everyone else ponders the same thought, but have people really considered the consequences of such unusual political discourse as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have shown on this campaign trail?
Think about it. These two politicians have broken every rule of civil discourse in the book. Their interruptions, name-calling, insulting and lack of handshakes are not what we want from the next President of the United States. Eventually, these patterns of behavior reflect who they are, and we certainly cannot have a leader who does not reflect unity and respect for others when our country is already torn and divided.
How Americans have been acting, however, has unfortunately reflected how these so-called leaders have acted, especially on social media. Our constant uploading and sharing of our political views on social media platforms is not contributing to political discourse. Instead, it is contributing to the downfall of actually beneficial discourse. When we post about our hatred for the opposing candidate, we hide behind the keyboard and forget that these candidates are actual human beings who are trying to make a difference in this world. They may have lives that are more public than our own, but that is no reason to degrade their ideas of how this country can be improved.
Sure, we’re never going to agree with everyone, and the political party system was created for a reason; but do we need to contribute such negativity to the online world so that it overflows into the real one? This level of mean spiritedness that we exhibit on our Facebook walls and Twitter feeds will soon be a reflection of ourselves as well, just as the media has reflected our Presidential candidates.
By no means am I saying that you should not post opinions on your profiles. I’m all for freedom of speech, and I am certainly not excluded from the crowd who posts political opinions on social media. I just want people to realize that our words are powerful, and it can be easy to express yourself online when you’re not directly confronting people with opposing views face to face. When you offer your political views to your friends and followers, think about how persuasive a post can actually be. Do you really think your comments on social media are going to unify the people in our country or persuade people of the opposing party to vote for the candidate you want to win?
Just remember that social media is a tool that can rally people for good or for bad. Let’s step away from the habits of these two Presidential candidates and use the media to connect with one another, not reinforce differences. Think about how you can affect someone else with the negativity you are spreading on social media. Before you post a negative thought of Trump’s behavior toward women or Hillary’s email server and stance on abortion, take a second to think what you are contributing to political discourse. Will it be helpful in any way?
I, for one, will be evaluating which candidate deserves my vote based on their leadership skills and character. I want to see a President in office who is above treating people with disrespect just because they disagree with other opinions. We deserve a President who reflects the values of the American people: loyalty, unity and community. What will not help us get this ideal candidate is continuing to use social media as a tool to dump our strong political views. Discourse is meant to build communication in a way that benefits people. When we contribute to its downfall with such strong language and conflict, our values and character as Americans fall as well.