Why Can’t We Be Friends?

As much as President Obama and Governor Romney must be relieved that the election is over, I think that many would agree that the general public is relieved that it’s over as well; based solely on the fact that we can’t stand to read or see another Facebook post, or Tweet, or election hashtag on the TV screen. It’s no shock that social media played an important role in the past election, but it may be a shock to find out that the election social media conversations have continued to affect users well after the winner was announced. In a recent article titled “Unfriendly Posts, Tweets on Election Day Rile Social Media Users,” the author explains that during the presidential race, many people were very blunt in their social media comments. Social media users were very vocal regarding the election and who they wanted to win, and these comments were taken to heart, causing people to realize that “social media friendships—like any other friendship are tested when there are differences of opinion” (Fletcher)  Oftentimes many people take politics very seriously, and it can be a very personal topic of conversation for most, so when people post comments about their political views on these very public platforms, these so called “personal attacks” on people lead them to “defriend” their online friends.

Although many people who hit the defriend button were not close friends in an offline world, this act of defriending supports the theory that maybe social media sites should not be a place for political discussion. Zizi Papacharissi explains in “Without You, I’m Nothing: Performances of the Self on Twitter,” that certain social media sites are intended for playful performances. Twitter is meant for playful content, not to discuss serious matters. With this being said, maybe it is not the most appropriate platform to express strong, or insulting comments about political topics since politics touches home for many people. In addition, this article makes me think about how online “friendships” are viewed. We have no problem with defriending some of our weak ties on SNS, because many of our online connections are not meaningful relationships, and can sometimes be viewed as superficial. This article explains that “the stronger the offline connection the more likely people will find to preserve the online relationship…when (the relationship) is totally digital it’s much more flammable” (Fletcher). Social media sites provide people with platforms for free expression, but by discussing more serious topics on these sites, meaningful and superficial “friendships” are uncovered and revealed. I think this article does a good job of pointing out what some people view as appropriate and inappropriate content to be discussed on these social media sites. Are these platforms really intended for freedom of expression, or is there a time and a place for certain conversation topics?

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