Politics and Social Media

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“If you’re under 30 and you’re not voting Labour, you have an essential part of your soul missing”

“We can’t be trusted in this election, I mean, we voted for Brexit”

“If you’re not voting Labour this election, then unfriend me”

It’s remarkable, isn’t it? Only a couple of days till we go to the polls (yet again), and social media has become even more intolerable than it usually is. It was bad when people were posting 5000 selfies a day, or taking photos of their lunch, but now with a General Election nearly upon us, it really does seem to have reached a new low.

I’m tired of it. I’m tired of the insults, of the pointless arguments, and the *oh so* witty political memes.

Look, I get it. Politics is an emotive subject for many people. It has the power to engage people in discussion and debate in a democratic country like ours. Yet it also has the power to bring the absolute worst out of people. I mean, when was the last time you looked at the comments of a political story and it DIDN’T descend into personal insults and churlish name-calling within a couple of minutes? Precisely, never.

In 2017, isn’t it time we did better? And isn’t it ironic, given Jeremy Corbyn’s way of doing things, that this is still the case? Corbyn was elected as Labour leader promising a different type of politics. He spoke of his dislike of the Punch ‘n Judy style PMQs that we’ve got so used to seeing in the House of Commons. He’s repeatedly spoken of the “kinder, gentler politics” mantra that was so popular. Yet his most ardent of supporters don’t seem to be following along.

Author: PaulNUK. Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

 

It’s not just Labour supporters, of course. There are plenty of unpleasant people from a broad range of allegiances to be found lurking on political posts. But I do think it is rather odd to see so many people, with a “I’m voting Labour” slogan on their profile picture so often launching into great tirades of “you Tory scum!” and others similar to the comments I started this piece off with.

It seems like people really have learnt nothing from previous shock results. You don’t convince people of your argument by insulting them – in fact, in the privacy of a polling booth, away from judgement; they’re likely to vote in the complete opposite way to what you wanted.

How often did we hear that if you were voting “leave” in the EU referendum, you were an uneducated racist and xenophobe?

How often were similar comments made about Trump supporters in the run up to the presidential election last year?

On the back of the latter, I came across a video by Jonathan Pie. He made a series of good points which are still relevant, several months later. His main argument? Stop calling people you disagree with evil, or racist, or sexist, or stupid. Talk to them and persuade them of your point of view rather than just insulting them. And if you’re incapable of doing so in a calm, rational manner, then perhaps you should take a break from political commentary for a while.

I voted “leave” in the referendum. Undoubtedly, I was one of few young people to do so – and perhaps you have already made a character assumption based on this admission.

But my main reason for voting the way I did was because of dissatisfaction with the “deal” David Cameron secured, plus my belief that the EU is incapable of meaningful reform it desperately needs.

Likewise, I’ll be voting Conservative this time around. Does that mean I “have an essential part of my soul missing”? I’d hope not. But my reasons are as much about local issues as they are national issues.

One that I’m most passionate about is the protection of greenbelt in my area, which faces mass development – despite there being hundreds of vacant properties in the locality. I do not believe that the greenbelt is a utility or resource to be sold off and concreted over as and when – it is farmland, recreational space and habitat for wildlife.

Own image

 

The Conservative candidate for North East Derbyshire has been just as passionate in his support of protecting the greenbelt, and more convincing than any other candidate.

I’m not one of these people who is going to tell you which way you should vote. Only you should decide that, away from online judgement and insults. But please, let’s not become so intolerant of each other’s views that we’re incapable of discussing things without it getting personal. Whatever happened to “let’s agree to disagree”?

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