I hesitated to sign up for a Twitter account years ago, knowing I didn’t need anything else to distract or disconnect me from my real-life relationships. These common stigmas of social media began to fade when someone pointed out to me: “An important conversation is happening and will continue to happen whether you are there or not.”
I quickly learned that she was right. On Twitter, I tapped into new perspectives. I found myself in communication overload, following significant conversations on politics, race, theology, and art. Jon Stewart once said that “the Internet is just a world passing around notes in the classroom.” Except this time, the messages don’t just come from our friends and neighbors, but also world leaders, celebrities, experts, and influencers. Surrounded by so many voices, how could any one of us make a difference? What do I possibly have to offer to these conversations? And given the potential for controversy, wouldn’t it be easier not to try?
A few years of tweeting, retweeting, and replying later, I still find myself scrutinizing and questioning my participation in social media. I’m no expert, and I worry whether it’s actually wise to speak out on every important issue. Plus, we all know how social media can fuel divides, and I’m busy enough without trying to keep up with every highly debated blog post, Internet meme, or viral hashtag.
I know I am not alone. That approach has been an easy default for many people, logging on to keep up with news and updates and to share the occasional lighthearted picture and meme. Well, until now. The presidential election season has caused people to be more vocal than normal. Even the quietest lurkers have written ...1
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