Distortionary Dialogues

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Two Perspectives on Social Media Politics in the Wake of Trump's Election

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This conversation took place on Facebook messenger on November 14, 2016, between a Believer and a Pessimist who had not spoken for over three years prior to the triggering event of Trump's election.

Believer: you need to do more

Pessimist: you don't know what i'm doing
what would make you say that

Believer: need to do more
rejecting racism sexism etc
as a white male
your voice is powerful and necessary
and i know its articulate

Pessimist: i guess i disagree with you on the importance or power of my voice, most especially on social media which is the platform you seem to be implying
although i dont understand what you specifically have in mind
i feel that i participate in those conversations in beneficial ways with many people around me
but at the same time i'll just take the advice on gp
so maybe you dont need to say more
up to you

Believer: Social media yes

Pessimist: ok so convince me
that social media matters

Believer: But I happen to know you're a debate champion

Pessimist: that's true
and my debate community is where a lot of those conversations are actually taking place
a format that i've personally found to be more productive than fb
but i also believe it matters to take what i learn there and apply it more broadly in my life
insularity is no good
just not sure i can do that here

Believer: When I've put my noodles in
I wasn't saying in the debate community
I was saying because you have those skills
As well as your "credible" demographic
It's really crucial you speak out
If this is something you truly don't believe in
I'm not sure why you don't think social media matters
I feel like even if people are closed off to other viewpoints
They will occasionally read things they disagree with
With the intention of making fun of it
But if your rhetoric is really strong
You might be able to plant a seed

Pessimist: because nobody important is listening, i'm preaching to a powerless and largely choir who has already chosen their opinions primarily in line with mine. i don't believe i have a lot of friends who don't already agree with most progressive principles, the question is more about motivating people to act and make changes in their lives and communities, something i believe emerges from living with people and dialoguing, not impassioned diatribes and monologues on a transient virtual sounding board
people scroll and react and move on
that's just how this place works
no?

Believer: I mean I think what we disagree about is that chance matters
I agree there is a small chance someone who disagrees with you is going to read and be completely convinced in the error of their ways by it
But I think You writing something can still have an effect
You contribute to a presence
Numbers speak
If someone reads what you write and it makes sense
The rhetoric is easy to follow and sound
That lends credibility to the message
Though dissenters won't change their mind in one swift action
That's progress
And don't make me say it again
Your demographic is really important
Why you choose to sympathize with minorities
When you yourself have not been subject to such discrimination
That's useful
That's how we learn to make other white men understand
We know that rape culture is not just rapists
It's litttle things
All the way down to microagressions
So don't think that one more person being vocal about what is not ok and why
Lacks  impact

Pessimist: what about the reverse impact of centering my own opinion and presence in a conversation that's not about me? are you suggesting i write an open letter to white men in general?
personally i feel there has already been a gross amount of white liberal hand-wringing that i've seen devolve mostly into pledges and promises that seem more about comfort and closure than anything transformative
and i think that inheres to the nature of social media activism

Believer: My suggestions are not nearly that specific
I'll do this when I'm done with dinner
Write your counter argument

Pessimist: my counter argument to whom?

Believer: Just finish what you're saying

Pessimist: hm ok
i ultimately end up thinking that a more agreeable counter-proposal is that i do more to expand the reach of affected people who are already posting eloquently and passionately about the importance of the issues you identify
i very much feel there is a worry of getting politically bogged down in a near-endless recurrence of apologies and confessions which basically center white men for a different reason
i'm not sure who needs to hear from me, specifically. i believe you that i have more persuasive power amongst white men than others do, but i think that there's a sort of dilemma which results
either i speak in general about the evils of social and identitarian inequity, in which case i might as well have endorsed the opinions of others who are speaking from a much greater stock of lived experience, research, etc.
or i speak specifically about my social location as a white man and its implications for participation and complicity within social systems of domination and oppression, in which case i valorize the sort of backhanded self-congralutory strategy which refocuses the discussion on the people whose voices are already determining the national conversation
and i certainly have trouble believing that anyone other than a white man is going to receive some striking insight from my social commentary
i'll briefly also note that the timing of this greatly matters, and i think that there's a tendency to magnetize political energy around high-profile flashpoint events like trump's election, which i think is not only disingenuous but counterproductive
how many random people have you seen come out of the woodwork in the past week to give their two cents on america's race/gender/etc problems?
do you not have some sort of feeling that the pool is over-saturated?
and it's awfully pessimistic of me to say this, but i'll go for it
i believe that over-saturation can result in annoyance and dismissal at best, backlash at worst - the big "look at me" posts start to feel like they are for show and not for a real purpose
i think approaching the issue at a personal level is more genuine and effective - having a conversation with someone rather than letting them read your status update and move on
i hear you that social media will statistically have a greater reach than my day-to-day conversational confrontations, but i think that impersonal scope is sort of a failing of the platform for catalyzing insight
i'm gonna stop there

Believer: I agree about over-saturation esp re: ".this is me participating even tho I have nothing special to say posts"
Which is why I haven't posted anything
But
You can at least repost things POC say
And I also think
In the context of the election
This is your country too
And you're allowed to speak out about that
Not from the perspective of a marginalized person
Not from personal experience st all
But from a factual standpoint
Yes
In 6th grade I took a CPR class
And the instructor said
That too often people are afraid of performing CPR because they don't want to do it wrong
I think there is a way for you to do it right
But doing it wrong is not the end of the world
Yes you might encounter some harsh criticism
So you learn and you apologize and you do more
Reposting minority peoples posts and also just articles is like
A fine way to let people know where you stand
Without redirecting their attention to you
And through the comments
You can make x or y argument
And there is less of you in the center of that post
I think you're just afraid

Pessimist: what am i afraid of
and what are you afraid of
i didn't quite follow your explanation for why you've chosen not to speak out publicly as of yet

Believer: I agree I have nothing new or special to add
I don't need to detract attention away
but something I have
that you don't
is hte assumption that I support POC rights and stand w miniorities
you're afraid of criticism
about slipping up and accidentally misdirecting attention, or mischaracterizing the problem, or making it about you
you're afraid of being problematic

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