October 21, 2018

Saying Stupid Things on Social Media

cats paying attention
I suspect that when your average American who does not belong to the far-left sees someone on social media angrily claiming that White people should never call the police on a Black person because the Black person will probably end up dead, he or she can probably dismiss it as yet another example of people saying nutty things on social media. But when one sees this sort of thing repeated over and over again from several people on the political left, I wonder if it might have a somewhat different effect. I think it may lead at least some average Americans to reconsider their support for the political left. I doubt it would do this in isolation, but if one were to combine it with many similar examples spread out over some time, I think it might have such an effect.

Many of the associations we have with political parties are not entirely rational or even conscious. They aren't things we select thoughtfully as much as they are gut-level associations that occur to us almost automatically. I suspect they are influenced by our experiences, both positive and negative, with those who represent themselves as being aligned with the various parties. And so, when someone encounters crazy liberal after crazy liberal (or crazy conservative after crazy conservative), he or she is likely to end up with less positive attitudes toward the group involved.

This is one of the reasons I try to put some thought into how I express myself on social media instead of just reflexively venting outrage at anyone who crosses my path without considering the possible consequences of doing so. I'd like to avoid giving others an excuse to form less favorable attitudes toward my political views because doing so strikes me as counterproductive. Of course, I also don't view myself as being entitled to punish those who say things I don't like. I'd far prefer to give others the space to express themselves.

Like everybody else who uses social media, there are times when I see someone say something incredibly stupid and feel the pull to respond. I am usually able to resist this and move on. There seems to be little point in the endless "call outs," and arguing with others is not why I use social media. I have a difficult time thinking that this sort of social media discourse is changing many minds. In fact, it seems far more likely to do the opposite.

Besides, I have some sympathy for people who say stupid things on social media. For the most part, I imagine they are doing it for attention. While I don't usually react to them, plenty of people will. Saying something stupid seems to be a sure-fire way to get attention on increasingly crowded and dysfunctional social media platforms.