Concluding the 2020 presidential election on Saturday, November 7th with a win for Democratic Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, it’s no secret the political unrest was at an all time high leading up to Election Day.
Political unrest during an election year is common as everyone feels the need to make their voices heard and vocalize their support for a particular candidate. People debate, tensions are high, perhaps there is some backlash from the losing party, but at the end of the day, we typically are able to move forward as a united nation.
However, unlike those past presidential elections, this one arguably divided the nation the most in a shockingly short matter of time.
So what was the difference between past presidential elections and this one that managed to tear the nation in two?
Social media. The answer is stupidly obvious, but that’s the difference.
In a day and age where teens and adults alike are hyper connected to the virtual world around them, it’s the most logical way for citizens to voice their political frustrations to a large audience in only a matter of seconds.
Combine that with the fact that a significant portion of primarily liberal Generation Z was able to vote this election, it really is no wonder that our social media timelines were filled with aggressive tweets, memes, and videos.
While social media admittedly is a great platform for connecting with friends and staying up to date on local news, it really isn’t the appropriate place to post political slander attacking those of different political associations and that sentiment is shared among many people.
According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 64% of adults feel that social media has more of a negative effect on the country than a positive one. Forty-four percent of those adults cite misinformation, hate, and extremism as being the main reasons.
Statistics like this continue to prove that any conversation regarding politics is never friendly, especially not on social media threads.
However, while I don’t condone the use of social media to unleash political fury, I fully support the idea that everyone is entitled to their own political opinion and has a right to express them in whatever way they so choose — as long as those ways are respectful.
Luckily, respect is an elementary principle for a reason because it’s an easy one to understand.
Opinions are opinions for a reason. They’re unique to each individual person and ultimately, you don’t have to accept someone else’s opinion if you don’t agree with it. But you do have to respect it.
American citizens are crying out that the nation is “more divided than ever” when those are the same people that are consistently trying to invalidate someone else’s political opinion.
If we truly want to be a united nation, we need to recognize that other opinions exist and that’s okay. The world isn’t going to implode.
It’s also important to recognize that just because someone supports a particular party doesn’t mean she or he agrees with everything that party stands for. The election ballots list it as a political preference for a reason. It’s not all or nothing.
With that in mind, these political posts calling liberals ‘snowflakes’ and conservatives ‘white supremacists’ can’t fly anymore. To put it simply, this mind set that it’s okay to point fingers and tear each other down is pathetic and immature.
It’s not a coincidence that this was the year Gen Z could vote and now our social media feeds are littered with hostile posts.
The irony of that really is laughable though. For a generation that prides itself on the acceptance of everyone such as members of the LBGTQ+ community, they’re sure having a difficult time respecting political opinions that are different than theirs.
Reflecting on the 2020 election, there are a few things we as a nation could take away from it.
First, everyone is entitled to their own opinions. Second, degrading someone’s opinions with political slander is never okay and it shouldn’t be normalized. And finally, understand that politics aren’t simply black and white. There’s a gray area there that we have to be willing to explore if we truly want to unite as a nation.
Moving forward, there really isn’t an obvious answer on how to prevent the spread of political hate through social media. But maybe the next time you go to publish a harsh political post, consider its effect on the people you’re following and what it’s really going to achieve.
The opinions printed here, to some, may appear radical, foreign, even otherworldly. They shouldn’t be. And the only reason they might seem so unreal is because we haven’t heard unifying ideas such as these over the course of the past five or so years.
These ideas aren’t just unique to me. Rather, they have been expressed by President-Elect Joe Biden too:
“It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again, listen to each other again. And to make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as our enemies. They are not our enemies. They are Americans.”
Almost half the nation voted to make America great again in 2020, but to be clear, 100% of Americans should want to make America unified again.
To successfully do so, we need to learn to put our political differences aside so that we can move forward together as one.
Samantha Anderson is a columnist for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl