Photo ill Facebook

An LSU student scrolls through Facebook, on Monday, Feb. 11, 2019.

There are a few reasons I decided to write for the opinion section of The Reveille rather than entertainment or news. Of those, the ability to engage in politics on social media sits at the top of the list. Other sections adhere to strict, necessary journalistic guidelines. Their writers aren’t allowed to engage in politics so that they can remain unbiased in the public eye. The opinion section, however, is unique in that the point of the section is to appear opinionated, which caters well to my social media tendencies.

I post about politics on Facebook and Twitter, probably too much for my own good. It’s something I’m passionate about. Whether I’m sharing a news article or offering my two cents about that article, I want my friends and followers to be aware of what’s going on in the world and I want to hear what they think of it.

I’m hesitant to vocally align myself with any particular ideology or political party. My opinions change as I learn more and, frankly, I need and would like to become more educated on a range of issues involving national and local politics. I also prefer to pick apart individual issues rather than blanket myself with a label. However, for the sake of simplicity, I typically identify as a stereotypical college liberal.

One of my Facebook friends ardently disagrees with much of what I post. Other friends ask why I don’t block or remove that friend. The answer is simple: I like to know what the other side thinks.

That particular friend forces me to assess my bias and consider the argument that I otherwise wouldn’t pay much attention to. If I were to block or remove that friend, I would succumb to confirmation bias, which is the tendency to only pay attention to voices I typically agree with.

We’ve had plenty of fruitful conversations regarding politics in the comment sections of Facebook. I’m sure you’ve heard the decade-old sentiment that it’s pointless to discuss politics on Facebook. I disagree.

Thanks to social media, we can become connected to billions of different people, world views, ideologies, experiences and creeds across the planet. Why wouldn’t we use the most accessible means of communication to discuss the problems of our day?
There are right and wrong ways to have these conversations, though. An obvious disqualifier is slinging a quick one-liner or insult across the internet. Another might be citing obviously biased sources full of disinformation such as Occupy Democrats or Infowars.

Discussing politics on social media requires respect and humility. A bit of empathy might be necessary, as well. The most important requirement, however, is a desire to either enlighten or be enlightened. Rather than add to the noise, we should sort through the noise and arrive at either a new opinion or a newly reinforced opinion. Sorting through the noise by discussing politics in good faith on social media is 21st century American civil discourse, a principle ingrained via our 1st Amendment. 

In regards to respect, humility and empathy, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. Remember the person disagreeing via the internet is a person just like yourself, with their own life and their own struggles. Keep your comments tasteful and devoid of personal attacks. Remember, you probably don’t know everything. It’s okay to simply admit that you don’t know or that you may have been wrong.

Lastly, remember you both are engaging in discourse to arrive at a better, more informed conclusion because you both care about the issue in question. While those reasons for caring might be different, none are negligible.
Freedom of speech facilitates civil discourse, so why not practice that form of communication on the most accessible platform known to humanity?
James Smith is a 22-year-old mass communication senior from Grand Coteau, Louisiana.

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