On the EDge: When social media becomes anti-social

Indecent discourse in social media, USA divided | Graphic by Brett Barrett, St. George News

OPINION – I look upon Facebook, Twitter, and the Internet with admiration and, admittedly, confusion sometimes.
I cannot pretend to understand it all. It’s like flicking a light switch to turn on a lamp. I don’t care how it works or why it works, I just am happy that it works.

But, there are also times when social media and the Internet make me want to pitch my laptop off the third-floor balcony of our home.

The other night was one of those occasions.

Trolling through the Facebook entries, I came upon yet another disparaging post about President Barack Obama.

Now, I can understand where voters would oppose him because of his politics, his record, his actions.

That’s where it should end, however.

Unfortunately, there was one poster who over the last few months repeatedly put up crude, highly personal attacks on the president. Needless to say, this person’s like-minded friends would dogpile on the post with an outpouring of hatred and anger.

“He’s a liar,” one person commented.

“He’s ruining the country,” another posted.

“I am praying for our country that he is not reelected,” posted yet another.

So, I asked what lies he has told.

No response.

I asked how he has ruined the country.

No response.

And, as far as prayer is concerned, I’m all for it, but I don’t think Jesus is terribly political and, according to what I have read, if he is, he would most certainly be a very liberal Democrat because of his care and concern for the poor, the ill, the troubled, and because of his abhorrence to violence.

Now, in all fairness, I have also seen vicious, disgusting, heartless attacks from the left that have been equally vulgar and distressing, which leads me to believe that either the voting public is incredibly stupid, or it is more rooted in racism and religious exclusion than I ever dreamed possible.

The turning point last night came when a poster responded to a comment made by my wife; the poster’s response suggested my wife was not a patriotic American and that she should consider moving to China or Cuba, where her opinions would fit in and be accepted.

Now, Cara is a U.S. Navy veteran. She served during Operation Desert Storm and was injured in the line of duty to the extent that she received an honorable discharge for medical reasons. To have somebody insult her service, her patriotism, her sacrifice, and, most importantly, the opinion she enlisted in the military to ensure the freedom to express, drove me over the edge.

I must admit my response was rather rough, so rough I dare not reprint it here.

I am, sadly, at a place now where it seems fruitless to discuss politics in a social media format for fear of getting involved in a vile personal exchange.

The bit about moving to China or Cuba, where her opinions would be accepted?

I dealt with that for more than a dozen years, getting hammered by people who would comment on pieces I wrote by saying “we don’t like your kind here,” “go back to California, you dirty hippie,” or, even say they would pay for my one-way ticket out of Southern Utah to any place I wanted to go.

Why? Because I offered a point of view that did not fit into the mainstream.

Has the United States become so shallow that there is no longer room for opposing points of view and robust discussion? Has it become so divided that the courtesy of decency has been tossed out the window and replaced with uncivil discourse that is not only rude, crude, and obnoxious, but threatening as well?

Look, if you want to throw down in a serious political discussion, I will be more than happy to oblige you. As a matter of fact, I rather enjoy that sort of thing. If you don’t like my candidate, that’s fine, too. But give me legitimate reasons instead of that ridiculous “birther” conspiracy argument, and don’t try to justify your position with vague, broad statements you cannot back up.

As Joe Friday used to say, “Just the facts, ma’am.”

Let’s leave personalities out of it.

No bad days!

 

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: edkociela.mx@gmail.com

Twitter: @EdKociela

Copyright 2012 St. George News.

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7 Comments

  • Kate Dalley June 21, 2012 at 8:41 am

    Loved your article, Ed! Well said!

  • Beth Lock June 21, 2012 at 8:48 am

    Hey Ed, check out nolabels.org. This movement is keeping me sane during this political season.

    Bill Maher suggests there is a group of people who have made up a president that doesn’t really exist, and this is the president you read about in all the attack posts, which have nothing to do with President Obama and everything to do with the one that was made up.

  • Omg STG June 21, 2012 at 9:54 am

    I’d vote Obama over everybody else running by far, no doubt!

  • Paul Forcey June 21, 2012 at 10:53 am

    Ed, as a fellow “outsider” (although I am from further afield) I can relate to everything you are saying. I can not believe the hate I see when anyone starts talking Politics and if you disagree on anything then it gets really nasty.

    No president (or any level of politician) is going to be loved by everyone, the beauty of the system is you can work to get someone else elected. It is a lot more effort than moaning on Facebook though so I doubt most people will do anything.

    I enjoyed your pieces when you were in the local paper and wish you well in your new endeavors.

  • chris busch June 21, 2012 at 11:13 am

    oh ed, how I have missed you!!! I would debate you on politics any day, but I am afraid we would be standing on the same side most of the time!!!!! i also am dismayed by how folks post vicious comments, as if they do not count online. They often hide behind a user name. sort of like using the vent in the paper…..

  • Ed Kociela June 21, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Hi, guys. Just so everybody knows, I really meant what I said about the abuse coming from both sides. It is very sad. Politics? It’s rough and tumble enough without degenerating into hatred, lies, and threats. Argue and argue well, just do not insult somebody’s intelligence, whether they come from the left or the right. And, BTW, missed you all, too!

  • urbanboy June 21, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    When, oh when are people gonna realize our votes are a dullusion to make it appear we, the people have power. Supposedly they already know who the president is gonna be before we, the pwople have any say…That’s what I hear all the time, everywhere I go. Not sayin I believe it 100 percent, but we are a corrupt country.

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