Social Media and our Society

Jacob Schamel

Opinion Columnist

Arguing on Facebook. Anyone who uses Facebook, Twitter, Reddit or other websites where people can comment and discuss their ideas has at one point or another got into an argument with another user. While these websites are amazing tools that allow us to have instant communication with individuals all across the world, they also allow us to hide behind our keyboards.

On Monday afternoon, Texas Senator Ted Cruz made the announcement he will run to be the Republican candidate in the 2016 election. His announcement officially kicked off the presidential election a whole 20 months before Americans will go the polls in November 2016 to vote and has been a major topic in them media cycle this week. As a result people, myself included, took to social media to express their opinions about Cruz and the politics in this country.

Around four o’clock on Monday afternoon I chimed into the discussion when I posted on Facebook the following statement. “Just to be clear, a Canadian born son of a former Cuban communist is a Republican candidate in 2016.” Now let me just make it clear that this comment was nothing more than a satirical spin. I do not question Cruz’s American citizenship or his eligibility to run for president. In regards to his father, Cruz senior did in fact fight for Fidel Castro in the Cuban revolution of the late 1950s, but has since become an American citizen and a preacher.

I had no idea that when I made this post that it would start a debate that would last for over 48 hours and extend to over 200 comments. There were numerous contributors to the discussion that included my former coworkers, friends from my hometown, fellow Canisius students, and most notably members of my family.

The discussion got off to a hot start when one of my cousins — who did not get that I was making a joke — called me ignorant for making such a statement. Now let me state that I come from a very large family and have over 40 cousins on one side alone. As one can imagine, we Schamels are a diverse bunch. We have a great cast of characters that always makes for fun family gatherings and heated discussion. I love the family I come from and would not trade being a member of it for anything.

My cousin who made the remark is a cousin who I do not see very often and am not particularly close with, but in the Schamel family political opinions are not kept close to the chest. While I often refrain from getting into these discussions, numerous cousins and aunts and uncles are almost always engaged in some kind of argument over Facebook, email, or a few drinks. It keeps things entertaining and I love that about my family.

The debate that my post started was the first one I had been involved in for sometime and it did not take long for me to remember why that had been the case. The debate quickly devolved into a bunch of unsubstantiated claims and petty personal attacks that resembled nothing close to an intelligent conversation.

As a History and Political Science major I have done a fair share of writing in my time at Canisius and have learned that if you make claims you need to be able to support them with evidence. My cousin does not feel the same way. While he is an incredibly bright and determined individual and had an honorable two-decade career in the U.S. Navy, but many of his political opinions are not based in sound fact.

The amount of misinformed opinions my cousins stated in this debate made me realize how damaging it can be when people choose where they get their information. The Internet is arguably one of the most important inventions in the history of man up there with the wheel and electricity. It runs our world and is something that I could not imagine life without.

For all its wonder, the Internet does have its pitfalls. While it allows people to express and communicate in a way never before imaginable, it also allows for people to not have to face up to credibility, accuracy, or integrity. Liberal and conservative news sites both spew misinformation about this country’s politics as they seek to push their agendas and ultimately attain success. The incredible amount of “news” they present to us is often spun to extremes and is having a frightening impact on public opinion.

With so many options to choose from people often choose just a few sites and one of the major media outlets for their news. What this means when the big three news channels are conservative Fox News, liberal MSNBC, and clueless CNN is that the general public is highly misinformed. Combine this with being able to find extreme political news sites and it is understandable my people today can be so certain in their views.

While the political argument that my comment sparked was rather extreme considering it occurred on Facebook, it is not unlike arguments and debates that occur in our society and government. Our leaders often refuse to acknowledge the facts and this goes for both the right and the left. Instead the two sides attempt to distract us with claims like our president is a terrorist or that all republicans are warmongers. The arguments are never that simple, but people believe them to be. As long as that continues, the real issues that this country faces will never be addressed.

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