Five ways to use social media to open your political mind
A lot of people refer to social media as a cesspool. It’s no secret that scads of terrible ideas, angry tweets, and awful memes pollute the social space. If you’re not careful, you’ll start feeling infected by it—wading through toxic sludge, day after day.
Soon you’re addicted to the sludge, and you take a running cannonball into the swampy milieu. Now you’re angry tweeting, and spending two hours of what should be a perfectly peaceful time in your day trying to convince someone that life starts at conception, or climate change is real, or there aren’t actually 328 genders.
I’ve been down this road many times (too many), and I have no pride in that. I’ve wasted hours arguing with complete strangers online, and in the end nobody changes their minds. The only thing I’ve been successful at is raising my blood pressure. After too many frustrating interactions, I started using social media a little differently. The changes I’ve made in my behavior and thinking have resulted in changes in my political ideologies as well.
There is a way to climb out of the social media sludge, and into the clean air of reason without having to give up Twitter or Facebook entirely. Not only that, I believe social media can actually help you open up your political perspectives—if you use it wisely.
Here are a few pointers to navigating social media in a healthy way, and becoming more politically open-minded:
Step 1: Drop your dogma
It’s very difficult to progress and grow in your ideologies if you hold dogmatic opinions on everything. It’s good to have strong, well-informed opinions, but hold onto them loosely. Remember that your ideological opponents also have well-informed opinions; they’re just different from yours. Not everyone that disagrees with you is stupid (although some are, of course, and those people aren’t the ones you should listen to). Many have researched, studied, and put time and thought into their views—whether it’s abortion, climate change, or the economy. Don’t come to the social media politisphere thinking the worst of everyone who sits on the other side of the aisle. This doesn’t mean you can’t speak up passionately about something that’s important to you. It has more to do with how you view and treat those who think differently.
Studies have also found that extreme dogmatic views result in an increased willingness to shut down the free speech of your opponents, as well as increased tendencies toward violence directed at your opponents, according to Sean Stevens of Heterodox Academy. Recognize your own fallibility and learn to accept it. We are all on this journey together, and nobody has a monopoly on knowledge.
Step 2: Pledge to stop rage tweeting
Rage tweeting is an exercise in futility, and most likely harmful to your mental and emotional health. For one, you won’t change any minds. Twitter doesn’t provide enough characters to get across the nuance of complex arguments, and most often your Twitter opponent won’t acknowledge any of your logical points because their mind is already made up. (Not to mention, rage tweeting isn’t exactly known for its logical point making.)
Secondly, it puts your mental health at risk. Scientists have compared rage tweeting to road rage and found that a vast majority (close to 85%) of social media users lose their temper faster online than in person. Studies have also shown that rage tweeting for “catharsis” actually has the opposite effect, increasing your overall aggression. No more rage tweets. Stop cold turkey.
Step 3: Follow people you disagree with
Now that you’ve somewhat “cleansed your political palate,” it’s time to take a difficult step: Actively follow people on social media you disagree with. This is a great way to hear ideas from people who don’t subscribe to the same ideologies as you—straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. Search for commentators, political leaders, academics, journalists, and reasoned thinkers on both sides of the aisle who share quality content.
This is an important step because we currently live in a society that doesn’t approve of intermingling with “the enemy.” In the summer of 2018 Hollywood actor and producer Mark Duplass tweeted a very reasonable, innocuous statement: “Fellow liberals: If you are interested at all in ‘crossing the aisle’ you should consider following @benshapiro.” Immediate rage ensued, with leftists furious that he would dare make such a suggestion. Ridiculous, hyperbolic articles were written about it. Emotions were high, and after intense social pressure, Duplass deleted the tweet and apologized for it.
The apology was a terrible precedent to set, and Duplass handled the situation in the worst possible way by caving to the social media mob. He was right the first time. Ben Shapiro is a popular conservative commentator, educated, and reasonable. He is exactly the kind of person someone on the left should follow to learn more about differing points of view. On the left, there are people like Bret and Eric Weinstein, Sam Harris, Heather Heying, Christina Hoff Sommers, and countless others who truly make an effort to have good faith debates. All are excellent follows for people on the right.
When it comes to your own friends and family on the other side of the aisle, don’t hit the “unfollow” button so fast. If their posts make you mad, don’t respond in rage and anger. If possible, schedule a time to have a reasonable discussion in person, rather than posting back and forth publicly on social media. Avoid attributing bad motives to your own social circle just because they don’t have the same ideas as you. This will only result in lost friendships and family distress.
Step 4: Avoid tribalism
Tribalism is a sort of political polarization that makes people feel bound to their ideological “tribe.” This feeling of loyalty makes it very difficult for a person to ever step out of their political comfort zone because the last thing they want is to be seen as a traitor. Trying to escape it often comes with a heaping spoonful of repudiation from your in-group.
During the contentious Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings, Republicans reamed Sen. Jeff Flake for giving even an ounce of leverage to the Democrats. Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema gets plenty of pushback from progressives for her bipartisanship. She’s one of the few Democrats who stood and clapped during President Trump’s most recent State of the Union address and supported Trump’s attorney general nomination of William Barr. Recently the New York Times published an article titled “I Broke Up With Her Because She’s White,” where the writer details his struggle with dating outside his race. He admits “maybe I wouldn’t have broken up with her if it hadn’t been for all the judgment coming my way.” These examples, along with the Duplass incident, are symptoms of toxic tribalism. It needs to stop, and it can stop with you.
Be willing to call out your own people. It’s ok to make fun of CNN or Fox News for their gaffes and bias. It’s ok to call out President Trump or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez when they say something completely absurd and false. You are not beholden to any one of these people, or organizations. Learn to think freely, and examine your own biases. Don’t just repost something because a popular person on your ideological team posted it. Examine it. Question it. Is it correct? Is it logical? Take a moment and see if you can refute it. Challenge yourself. It will be uncomfortable at first, but it’s a healthy habit to develop.
Step 5: Examine your motives and practice decency
If you’re all about “owning the libs,” or “owning the cons,” you aren’t going to flourish intellectually in the social media space. You may get a lot of followers, but honestly, they are most likely tribal and toxic. If you are truly concerned with finding solutions to the issues that matter to you, you need to think before you post. Practice decency and kindness. How you interact with people can result in friendly (and possibly fruitful) debate, or conversely, a deeper commitment to tribalism. The former is what you should aim for.
The book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” by Dale Carnegie, provides wisdom on how to positively interact with people, and I would suggest reading it to learn how to argue more persuasively. Here are a few tips from the book that may help in your online interactions:
- Don’t criticize your opponent; it will put them on the defensive.
- Try to find a way to show your opponent appreciation.
- Make an effort to see things from their point of view.
- Show a genuine interest in their ideas.
- Admit when you’re wrong.
It takes self control and patience to debate with people with whom you vehemently disagree. Making an effort to debate in good faith, rather than going in for the kill, will not only elevate the conversation but also make you a better thinker … and a better person.
As it stands, social media is a very volatile creature. There is a lot of good mixed in with quite a lot of bad. If you are honestly interested in bettering yourself as a person, both intellectually and emotionally, following these steps is a good start.
Devan Bracci-Selvey, 14, was murdered by two of his fellow students on October 7, 2019. The boy was stabbed to death while waiting for his mother to pick him up outside Sir Winston Churchill School in Hamilton.
Today an 18-year-old and a 14-year-old were brought before a Hamilton courtroom to face charges of first-degree murder.
The Crown dropped the murder charge laid against the 18-year-old suspect. Investigators believed the 14-year-old suspect was the one who wielded the knife.
Four teens were arrested in total following the incident but two were later released without charge.
Shari-Ann, mother of 14-year-old Devan confirmed that she witnessed the stabbing herself in an interview with CP24 News.
Both of the suspect’s identities have been protected by the Youth Criminal Justice Act that bans publications from printing the names of minors.
The 14-year-old suspect still has the charge of first-degree murder pending.
The murder has led to a review of anti-bullying procedures throughout the Hamilton-Wentworth School Board. Shari-Ann Bracci-Selvey said the bullying of her son was well documented and that the teachers at the school were aware of it. Devan would sometimes refuse to go to school as a result of his bullies his mother said.
According to a Tennessee couple, a man hacked into their Ring security camera system and was talking to their daughter through it while pretending to be Santa.
Young Alyssa LeMay only had the system in her room for about four days when the chilling incident occurred. According to WMC News, she first heard Christmas music playing.
Alyssa said, “First, what happened I was in the hallway I thought it was my sister because I hear music. So I come upstairs and I hear some banging noise and I was like, ‘Who is that?’”
A voice then responded, “I’m your best friend. I’m Santa Claus.”
Alyssa shouted to her mother asking for help, and the hacker continued to speak to the child saying, “I’m Santa Claus, Don’t you want to be my best friend?”
According to the parents, the voice which sounded male, was telling the young girl to behave destructively.
Alyssa’s mother Ashley LeMay noted, “They could have watched them sleeping, changing. I mean they could have seen all kinds of things.”
In a statement, Ring wrote, “While we are still investigating this issue and are taking appropriate steps to protect our devices based on our investigation, we are able to confirm this incident is in no way related to a breach or compromise of Ring’s security. Due to the fact that customers often use the same username and password for their various accounts and subscriptions, bad actors often re-use credentials stolen or leaked from one service on other services.”
Jasmine Pickel is an entrepreneur and the Interim Ontario Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
Our politicians are addicted to spending. Even though they speak poetically about their good intentions and virtue signal whilst cheque-signing on our behalf, much of that spending is wasteful and sinks us further into debt.
Here are five phrases that usually indicate that a politician is about to waste your money.
1) Politicians will say they’re “investing”
When politicians say they’re investing government money, what they really mean is that they’re spending taxpayer dollars. Unfortunately, politicians at all levels of government in this country have a poor track record in this regard.
In Newfoundland, the government lost $260,000 when it tried to operate a Tim Hortons. Likewise, the Ontario government lost $42 million trying to sell marijuana.
Given that governments can’t make money selling double-doubles or weed brownies, they should let taxpayers keep more of their own money to invest it themselves.
2) “It’s not a spending problem–it’s a revenue problem!”
Imagine saying that in the context of your own life – that it’s not your fault you spent so much, it’s just that your job doesn’t pay what you’d like to spend. Unfortunately, our politicians just keep adding to our credit card bill.
A recent Ontario government report shows why it is in fact a spending problem. It found that Ontario would have spent $330 billion less in the 15-year period the former Liberal government was in power if it had simply kept spending in line with population growth.
Instead, spending increased in real terms by $2,200 per person, and now Ontario’s debt has surpassed $350 billion, making the province the largest subnational debtor on the planet.
Politicians love painting deficits as a revenue problem so they can raise taxes. Don’t fall for it. Tell politicians to manage their own budgets instead of taking more out of yours.
3) Politicians say they’re spending to “help the middle class”
While big government apologists like to pretend all of our tax dollars go toward vital services such as health care and education, the reality is that politicians will often take tax money from hard working Canadians to hand it over to large, profitable corporations.
Take for example the $12 million the Trudeau government gave to Loblaws to buy more energy efficient fridges (even though the company posted net earnings exceeding $800 million that fiscal year). That’s nothing in comparison to the $4 billion of taxpayer money that has been given to Bombardier though, a company owned by one of Canada’s wealthiest families worth close to $3 billion.
Taxes are the single largest expense for most Canadians, taking up approximately 45 percent of the average Canadian’s annual household income. If politicians really wanted to help the middle class, they’d stop giving corporate welfare handouts and instead lower our taxes.
4) Politicians justify their overspending by saying they’re on “a responsible path to budgetary balance”
Translation: “We’re going to keep adding to the debt for the next few years at least.” There’s simply nothing responsible about overspending, especially in good economic times.
In fact, it’s very irresponsible for politicians to ignore the opportunity costs of running up large debts. For example, this year Ontario will spend about $13 billion on interest payments. That’s more money than it will spend on colleges and universities put together!
Politicians should stop making excuses as to why they can’t balance budgets, and they should start paying down the debt.
5) Politicians say “we can keep spending as long as the debt-to-GDP ratio stays in check”
Although this is a favourite excuse used by our current prime minister, the reality is that this economic ratio isn’t reliable. For example, if Canada were to encounter tough economic times and our debt were to increase more sharply than planned, the ratio would be thrown out of whack. All of a sudden, we’d be in a position where we’d be saying “wow, we really need to pay down debt, but now we’re not in a financial position to do so.”
Conversely, even if our GDP were to increase sharply thereby lowering the ratio relative to our G7 counterparts, it doesn’t necessarily follow that more spending is justifiable or a good idea.
Canadians live within their means. It’s time our politicians followed suit.
Sue Wereham, manager of the Riff’s department store had a heartwarming story to share with CBC last weekend. The Clareville manager received a phone call from an anonymous woman wondering if she could pay off some of her fellow citizens’ tabs at the store.
Although the woman remained nameless, she came into the layaway counter over the weekend. “She just walked on out of here,” Wareham told CBC. “I don’t who she is. She’s just a kind, kind person.”
The woman explained to Wareham that she and her husband didn’t want to exchange gifts the year but would rather pay for four or five people’s purchases from both Riff’s location in Gander and Clarenville.
“I have told so many people about the kindness of this couple. It’s unbelievable. People do get so angry and frustrated this time of year and just seeing somebody calm and thoughtful, it’s a wonderful feeling.” Wareham said.
The Christmas holidays can be difficult for everybody and working in the retail industry can be stressful as well. People are often stressed about their finances and schedules but this was a moment of smiles and tears of joy.
Wareham said that it was a gift to everyone, including other patrons of the store just watch the lucky customers find out their bill had been taken care of. Wareham said that there was more that herself and others had been brought to tears by it.
“I couldn’t believe it. I thought that’s the true meaning of Christmas, just being kind to other people. It made me cry, just that somebody would be so kind and thoughtful to do that sort of thing.” Wareham said.