As we get older, it seems like Facebook becomes more and more a place to discuss political views, rather than “connecting” over photos and experiences like Mark Zuckerberg intended us to do. That’s not a bad thing. It is good that we share ideas and start conversations with an audience who is hugely important – our friends. Communicating ideas to friends is one of the best ways to share an interesting belief you have or start a conversation among students, simply because many people bring things up more casually in conversation (and think about it more genuinely) when it comes from a peer, especially a friend. Facebook has proven that it is a terrific venue to do that in.
However, I’ve noticed a major issue with “Facebook activism” if used exclusively. It seems to be a recurring issue, where an individual is highly active on Facebook to encourage support for movements such as Black Lives Matter, Pray for Paris, Stand with Planned Parenthood or even to support a political candidate, but in real life, don’t share their views or correct people when they say “problematic” things.
This is frustrating. As powerful Facebook can be to encourage new ideas, it is not a good venue to try to convince people who oppose you to come and support your side instead. On Facebook, many people tend to disregard those who have differing views, right after they argue with them. In my experience, it really separates you further from those of other ideologies than yourself. It is hard to take just a name and a picture of someone you might not know very well seriously, especially when language is usually much more harsh and aggressive than what we might use while debating in person.
If someone were to disagree with me in class, or a friend were to bring up something in person that I might disagree with, the conversation is much more active. Not only will I be much more engaged in the discussion and debate, but I will probably have a stronger interest in the topic and be more willing to do further research.
I understand that some people may have social anxiety, or are even just nervous to discuss often personal and controversial views in public. But the fact of the matter is, Facebook arguments aren’t taken seriously, for the same reason they are called “Facebook fights” — they are petty.
If an issue truly matters to you, it’s important to share your views through other means than Facebook. Another option is blogging. It’s the perfect way to get all those feelings and frustrations about a certain issue out in the open, without having to say it in public, but it is still on a public forum to read and the format allows for more thorough analysis. The best option, though, is to have discussions in person when it’s easier to convey your point and your emotions. Joining smaller groups such as clubs or alliances on campus that are passionate about your issue is a great way to get into the nuances of a topic, and even come together to figure out possible solutions, big or small.
As the famed anthropologist, author and teacher, Margaret Mead, said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
By no means let this deter you from sharing ideas on Facebook, because the website is still a great way to share, connect and interact. The key is to understand that change does not happen from behind a laptop in the form of a sentimental status update or a profile photo filter. It happens when passionate people make their voices heard, and those voices must be heard if we are to make any significant difference.
Collegian Columnist Alexandra Stettner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @alexstetts.