By Allison Follbaum

With the Presidential election taking place this month, you’ll soon have a break from the relentless phone calls, emails, doorbell ringing and junk mail.   The months before an election of this magnitude are stressful as family, friends and neighbors bicker about importance and correctness of taxes, military policies, health care, etc. 

More prevalent than ever before were Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites on the forefront of this election’s campaign strategies.  Many called this the first “social media” election.  When you think about it, in 2008, the campaigning simply did not exist on the Internet as it does today. 

I looked at both candidates websites and discovered that you can follow Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Flickr, Tumblr, YouTube and even Spotify, just to name a few.  Seems amazing that the opportunity presents itself to stay totally connected with a candidate in every way imaginable.

This in-depth approach of campaign managers comes with a price for the consumer. Sure, you can stay in touch with the candidate of your choice, but on a site like Facebook, you’re subjected to your friends’ opinions also.  Memes, mocking both Obama and Romney, spread like wildfire through social networking sites. 

People vent daily in their Facebook status about the latest scandal or misstep by the candidates.  Dozens of comments trail down underneath these statuses. If you look at comment sections under news articles, you’ll see verbal fistfights prevalent with name-calling, swearing, and degrading, abusive language.  When users can hide behind a pseudonym and a faceless picture, they boldly point the errors of their fellow commenters and never budge.

I’ve had conversations with lots of my friends and acquaintances in the past several months about increasing frustration toward those who voice political opinions on Facebook.  I understand why people are annoyed.  Even within my own family, political disagreements lead to awkward dinners and birthday parties. 

In the Constitution of the United States, in the First Amendment, our founding fathers addressed the issue of free speech.  “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…”

If our country was founded on the idea of free speech, and the freedom to speak our mind, why are we complaining about the fact that this freedom exists?  Isn’t the very act of disagreeing with another’s opinion exercising our free speech as well?

I think our attitude is the problem.  It’s not a question of agreeing or disagreeing, but a question of healthy debate and mutual respect between opponents.  You don’t have to agree with my political opinions, but render me the service of treating me like a human being.

And one more toot of my own political horn: get out and vote Nov. 6!  Be an active citizen and exercise your right to vote.



Has social media ruined our ability to discuss hot-button issues?