It’s a bit of an awkward confession, but I might as well admit that for me, real life is scary sometimes. I made the decision to actually attend an in person debate last night, partly because it helped organize it, but also partly because sometimes it's nice to confirm that politicians sweat under pressure, a level of detail not yet available with internet streaming. I came back with a few thoughts on the candidates, but many more realizations about more important things.
We need to stop arguing as to whether social media has a place in events.
As I am a total awkward feministy cliché of a girl, I’m going to reference Tina Fey as if she is a modern philosopher because she is a modern philosopher so here we go:
“Some people say [Photoshop] is a feminist issue. I agree, because the best Photoshop job I ever got was for a feminist magazine called Bust in 2004. I looked at the two paltry lights they had set up and turned to the editors. ’We’re all feminists here, but you’re gonna use Photoshop, right?’ ‘Oh, yeah,’ they replied instantly. Feminists do the best Photoshop because they leave the meat on your bones. They don’t change your size or your skin color. They leave in your disgusting knuckles, but they may take out some armpit stubble. Not because they’re denying its existence, but because they understand that it’s okay to make a photo look as if you were caught on your best day in the best light.” (Bossypants by Tina Fey, 2011)*
This paragraph is relevant because it sets the precedent for the entire argument: change does not go away. We can take all the firm stances we want, but if we don’t use something it will not stop someone else from doing it. This isn’t going to lead into some way to excuse punching a puppy or a tinfoil hat diatribe, in fact, quite the opposite. Only once we accept something as a reality can be properly use it. Tina Fey says this of Photoshop, and I wish more people would adopt this tone for social media.
I heard a lot of criticism about the decision to stream tweets during the debate, and interestingly enough when I asked about this opinion the solution proposed was to not have screens because they were distracting people from the issues. To be clear, a medium that allowed a minimum of a hundred people who weren’t in the room to participate and ask questions was deemed a distraction. On top of that, there were those who passively saw the online postings because it was one of the most talked about thing in Canada on the same night some guy with curly hair said something about some party? whatever as well as the 145 individuals who watched the streamed debate in their homes. But it’s a distraction.
Now, this is not to say the balance of new media and old methods has been fine tuned yet, but the absolute worst way to discover this is to ignore what is happening. Furthermore, it is scary to admit that a new way of doing things has an intrinsic value beyond entertainment, but social media definitely gives a voice to those who, well, actually may not have a voice. For a self-professed crowd hater like myself, being able to confirm quotes onscreen was invaluable when my ears sometimes deceive me. As accessible as buildings are, to pretend that having a ramp is actually the solution to someone with physical disabilities is an insult to the extra effort involved in preparing for every day life. Finally, for those with certain invisible disabilities, which I feel the need to define here after some responses to the questions last night, social media provides unprecedented involvement in the community. As everyone adores a good slippery slope argument, I am writing this now to set the groundwork why e-voting is the best idea I never want to take part in, but that’s two or three more pages into the future. In the meantime, I’ll just encourage you not to do it too far ahead of time because as Wag the Dog taught us, the last few days before an election are really, really important.
Many dismiss a new way of doing something new as lazy because it’s a convenient way to deal with the lives of people that you are suddenly thrust into who might redefine what an ability is to you. You shouldn’t do that. Because it is a terrible idea. Saying such a thing would be a dumb thing to say. (Open Mayor participants, that juicy steak was for you!!!)
I’m not advocating forcing anyone to get a here’s 82 pictures of my newborn profile, and I honestly probably don’t want to read half your tweets about being srared of wut obmama will do?!!!!, but instead just suggesting that if we’re going to be discussing youth engagement in politics, we shouldn’t be fighting trends with all our might. If an administrator had just said “Hey guys, rap music is probably going to be a thing” back in the 1990s, I might not have had to suffer through “hardcore” “slam dunk yo junk yo!” public service campaigns all through junior high. The easiest way to not only establish some sort of control in the form of best practices is to freaking admit that it actually exists. This may involve some mistakes along the way, but so does life, and you’re reading this now, so something decent is happening, right? Now tweet about it.
-Here’s another look about social media & engagement, and I don’t think the two conflict.
-Google Analytics tells me a few of you are maybe involved in campaigns, and I would strongly suggest you read about how mayors need toengage youth while I still have your attention.
-If you made it to the end of this piece with the question of “but weren’t you supposed to tell me a scandalous dumb thing about each of the candidates?” then sorry, but I played a bit of a word trick on you. Psych! I have said enough angry things about candidates LINK for now, and there are still many days and a few debates left before the election, but thanks for stopping by!