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I Thought Facebook was the Beginning of the Division (Opinion)



By Katie Di Lillo Coombs

When Facebook first came on the scene over ten years ago, people truly used it as a place to communicate with family and friends.  The number of likes and comments really weren’t an issue and it was an enjoyable place to see updates of children or family members.  Through the years, people started accepting friendship requests based on not actually knowing someone but instead being comfortable with the fact that they had enough mutual friends to accept a friend request from a stranger. Facebook limited the numbers of friends to 5,000 and many people have that many “friends” on personal pages not designed for promoting business.

I started worrying about the loss of interpersonal connection as this became a trend.  If you can post a picture of your children and 200 people like it, well that must mean you are popular in some way.  You can converse with so many people and never even leave home. As time went by, people started getting their news from Facebook which allowed for most to read things they only agree with depending on the pages they followed.  The worst was still yet to come.

Memes began popping up and in the beginning they were funny pictures or jokes but now they have turned into political posts that are written with a certain agenda in mind. These political memes get shared over and over and in the minds of many are factual.  At the very least, they are misleading and cause people to argue over half-truths in ways that are generally not kind.

The personal attacks that occur in discussions over these memes are divisive and cruel at times. I see people attacking not just the opinions of those replying but also attacking their name or the way they look in their profile picture.  These memes travel the Facebook world daily and cause hate and the idea of an America that just has two sides – liberal or conservative.

Growing up, I was never allowed to turn in a paper without citing sources for facts and my English major in college solidified the difference between opinion and fact.  If I turned in a paper referring to a specific law, I had to cite that law or my grade was lowered. I couldn’t just write a sentence about the law that supported my political beliefs and leave it at that. Today, so much of the political division comes from shared memes that are so far from the truth but taken as fact by those who believe it.

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg. (CC) Brian Solis, www.briansolis.com and bub.blicio.us.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. Image: (CC) Brian Solis, www.briansolis.com and bub.blicio.us.

This week, a Facebook user posted the following meme with a derogatory message aimed at Speaker Pelosi.  The meme read “The House has voted 228-197 in favor of allowing illegals to vote. Still needs to pass the Senate.”  There were various other memes posted about this vote. “HR1 passed. Allowing illegal immigrants (foreigners) to vote.  No country allows that.” “227 of the 233 Democrats in the House voted to allow illegals to vote in our elections. This is criminal.  It’s unconstitutional.”

I have to admit the initial meme caught me off guard. The implication from the meme is that illegals will now vote in all elections. Upon further research, I learned that the bill is only designed to allow localities the right to decide if illegal immigrants can vote in local (not federal) elections.  For example, San Francisco allows illegal immigrants to vote in school board elections if they are the legal guardian of a student in the district.

You don’t have to agree with that decision but you should see the difference between stating that a bill now allows illegals to vote versus a bill that is allowing states to decide their own election policies.  It is instead important to note that illegal immigrants and noncitizens as a whole are not legally able to participate in federal elections. That means that they can’t vote for members of Congress or the President.

We all have opinions on whether or not they should vote at all in a city issue.  The disturbing issue is that one partially true meme (the vote count was correct) can lead people to believe that illegal immigrants have now been granted the right to vote.  Period. Why not include the exact language of the bill in the meme or provide a link to the bill rather than create a Facebook war over voting rights?

Unfortunately, the purpose is to create division based on things that haven’t happened.  The Facebook battles should have been centered around illegal immigrants voting on local issues but those who didn’t research were upset that illegals would choose the next President. No such bill has been introduced.

The danger of the meme is causing Americans to lash out at each other over things that haven’t even occurred. How can we properly debate if we don’t have the facts or take the time to research? The news channels pick up these controversial topics and give their spin and still the one thing missing is the truth.  

I really did think Facebook was the beginning of the end years ago but was off target. People on all sides of the political aisle spreading misinformation is the real danger and I don’t see it getting any better. I remember a world without Facebook and people were kinder to one another and forced to do research before writing things that could cause so much division.  

I encourage people to take the time to properly review what is being stated in these political memes before providing emotional responses that aren’t based in fact. We all succeed with a country united and nobody really wins a Facebook debate when they aren’t debating with all of the facts.

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