Since I founded Practically Republican in 2014 – and particularly since the 2016 campaign – I have seen the conversations on our Facebook page and Twitter feed become increasingly vitriolic, with civil debate becoming more like civil war. While there are still people trying to engage rather than enrage, they are becoming more of a minority as personal attacks replace the exchange of ideas. When people don’t really have a lot to say or can’t offer a good counter-argument, the easiest thing to do is to get angry and abusive and that’s when Facebook and Twitter become antisocial media platforms. Plus, some of those who might normally want to enter into civil conversation or debate are either afraid to speak their minds or simply disgusted with these emotional dynamics.
A quick perusal of our social media channels shows how far some of the contempt can go. From “lib-tards!” to “communists!” to “idiots!” (and I’m choosing fairly diplomatic examples), name-calling, hatred and ALL CAP SCREAMING are often the order of the day. Perhaps most distressing are comments that are nothing more that ad hominem attacks on people and accredited, bona fide news organizations. This includes comments “What an ASS****! I would never even listen to him!” to the tried-and-true falsely applied battle cry of “FAKE NEWS!” Another comment that stuck out was, when queried about why she seemed to ignore facts presented in a post, one user said, “No, I haven’t read the article! Why should I?!” Really, that’s all you have?
Our platform was built to give pragmatic GOP supporters, as well as commonsense Democrats, a place where their voices can be heard. But yelling at or condemning others isn’t discussion or debate; it’s unproductive noise that ends up obscuring the issues. We’re trying to host a forum where people feel comfortable exchanging ideas. You can still be critical or give negative feedback, but make it instructive rather than invective. Fortunately, as time has gone by and we have done our best to be more active moderators, we’re getting some more thoughtful and civil discussion, which is our goal.
In thinking about a way out of all this negativity and animosity, I have an idea. Let’s each ask ourselves one simple question. What do I think is one thing that all Americans, irrespective of party, can agree on? It doesn’t have to be a major problem or issue, just one thing you believe you could agree on with any other American. If we can all answer that one basic question, it could be the first baby step towards a renewed era of political dialogue.
So let’s tune out all the noise on social media and take a moment to think. What’s something that we can all agree on?