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Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Unhappy Hypocrite

I'm in speech teacher mode again today.  I've taken great pains to avoid being "political" during this election season.  My day to day of world of carting kids and dance class and work and church and whatever else comes my way is filled with people from all across the political spectrum.  I am sure many of us have very strong beliefs and very opposing beliefs, but when you're talking about ear infections and birthday parties and course scheduling, it doesn't really matter.
However, I've been biting my tongue on how political discourse and interpersonal communication are not playing well with each other.  With the election only a few days away, my tongue is practically bleeding, so it's time to let it wag.
Throughout the election season, the role of social networking has been undeniable.  A while back, I talked about using fact checking before forwarding or re-posting ideas, and it goes beyond that.  I love social networking for its ability to keep me connected to people with whom I might otherwise lose touch, but as a means of discussing politics with friends, it sucks.  I'm going to talk about two negative effects. 

1.       Evidence of hypocrisy has grown.

Let's face it.  We're all a little hypocritical.  This is definitely not new nor is it news.  But the internet and social networking, in particular have aided our ability to see just how hypocritical people are.  Before, most people were probably silent in their contradictions, their hypocritical actions coming behind closed doors and In whispers.  It used to be harder to catch someone in their hypocrisy.  Maybe I would notice someone with a so-called Jesus fish or a church bumper sticker flipping off another car, but I'd have to be watching at exactly the right moment.
Now, people display their hypocrisy like a badge and the evidence lingers on their timelines.  For example, if you post ten memes in a row about thinking positively and treating others with respect but your eleventh post accuses a whole segment of people as being lazy and having poor values, it says something.  If you respond to one of your "friends" political posts, engage in a debate, and then claim on your wall that you're sick of people trying to force their political beliefs on you, you, too, may be a hypocrite.
You know what pisses me off the most about all of this?  It makes me hypocrite as well. You see, being non-judgmental is at the core of all of my spiritual and philosophical beliefs, but I keep reading all of this, and I end up judging.  So, stop making me judgmental, damn it. :)

2.       Incivility is at its worst.

I used to LOVE political debates, and no, I don't mean the kind on T.V between two politicians trying to cram as much of their canned stump speeches into the responses to pointless questions as they possibly can, but the kind where friends sat around at night getting heated about the best way to solve for poverty or to deal with education.  The kind that as loud and excited as they got, the night still involved laughter and at the end, you knew that no matter how different your methods were, you all fundamentally wanted the same thing.
As a culture, we're losing the ability to talk with folks who have opposing views without name-calling and without assuming that the other person is stupid and uninformed.  To some extent, I get it.  I mean when you believe strongly in something, it's hard to imagine that if other people understood what you do that they could still feel differently.  But guess what?  Sometimes, they do. 
Additionally, this divide in the U.S. has made people hyper defensive and thus, increasingly offensive.  The simple act of stating my beliefs isn't an attempt to shove it down your throat, nor does it represent anything but civil discourse.  However, if you call me a sheep for the belief or tell me to get a life for wanting to share my ideas, then you have ended any possibility of meaningful dialogue. Not only that, but if at the same time, you claim the other "side" is mean spirited and can't handle being challenged, well then, see #1 because that smells like hypocrisy to me. And gosh darn it, now I'm judging again.
The election will be over shortly, but unfortunately, the impact of social networking on dialogue and discoure isn't going anywhere.  I can tell you strop it, to try harder, to be better, but I know my little blog isn't going to do anything to change it.
At least my tongue feels better.

1 comment:

  1. This really resonates with me, today, given...recent decisions.

    The big problem with the internet is that often, it removes the need for meaningful rebuttal, and, as you point out, this is a bit that is on decline more generally.

    It'd be easier to assume the other side wasn't stupid and uninformed if they only didn't sound so stupid and uninformed. :) But I think that's the problem with tweets and memes and quotes...they reduce full arguments to 140 characters and then people aren't engaging, they're just whining. My side included.

    As a discourse analyst, it's interesting to see how engagement drops—I have a paper about to go out about intertextual ties on message boards, and the truth is, they're very rarely used in a productive way.

    I think I'm rambling at this point, but that's a long way of saying, I agree.