Next week the UK is having a general election and the world is watching on with bated breath. Well, no, not really. In fact it seems the rest of the world couldn't care less, and understandably so. 2016 was the real year of interesting democracy and now everyone is a little bit bored of the whole thing. If Brexit was the support act to last years headliner, Trump, then this 2017 election is the after hours band that has turned up to play when everyone is far too drunk and tired to show any interest. We all just want to go home to sleep off our hangovers.
Still, that doesn't mean that at home there isn't some fiery debate going down. Even with arguably two of the most uncharismatic party leaders we've seen fighting for the top job it still seems to have sparked considerable emotions amongst folks on either side. On the one hand, gurning Thatcher 2.0 Theresa May promising "strong and stable" in the face of Brexit and an uncertain world, and on the other side socialist, Obi Wan Kenobi impressionist and boring Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn, who seems far too sincere to have come this far in British politics, admirably but monotonically promoting policies "for the many, not the few".
As ever with a twenty-first century election people turn to social media for advice on where to place their ever so precious democratic cross, and yet more and more it seems that social media has instead just encouraged a platform to which users have to profess their love for one particular team. It seems that now you have to be firmly established in one camp or the other, and whoever is in the other camp is wrong, a bad person and you will as a result unfriend them.
I can't help but feel that this is an unrealistic depiction of the way people truly feel on issues. I would consider myself more of a centrist, left leaning on many issues. I cannot declare my total and utter allegiance to one particular party as my views will be swayed by the state of the country at the time. As such I've always thought that it is not helpful to blindly declare oneself to be in total support of a particular group, because situations and policies change. It's all about compromise and I like to think of myself as being open to any sensible ideas, regardless of which party proposes them. This will be the third general election I've voted in and I'm happy to admit that I will be voting for a different party to the one I voted for in 2010 and in 2015.
I feel that this new camp allegiance on social media is not helpful. My Facebook feed consists of probably 99.9% pro Corbyn supporters. Which makes sense. The people I know are mostly urban artistic millennials, just like me. Whilst as I said I am left leaning, I do find that being trapped in this echo chamber is unhelpful and presents a very one sided view. I see phrases such as "us and them", "we can beat them", "we need to destroy them". This is not helpful. We are all people living in the same country and ultimately we all want a better life. You will never, ever convince anyone to change their mind if you view them as evil, stupid or wrong. Anyway, whose mind are you changing on Facebook if every one of your friends is supporting the same party anyway? Is it really about the cause or are you just chasing those dopamine inducing "Likes"?
I won't be voting for the Conservatives, but I'm willing to bet that if I updated my Facebook status to "I've changed my mind and will be voting Tory" I would receive a deluge of abuse, potential trolling and probably even lose some friend connections as a result. I would be very surprised if anybody wrote "What has brought you to this decision?". I'm tempted to try this as an experiment, but I fear it would be too damaging. I have an album to sell later this year and I need my Facebook connections.
I would also like to propose a rather radical idea. It is actually possible to be friends with someone who has a differing political view to you! I know, shock horror! In fact, it can actually be a good thing! I try and mix in different circles and I can say that I do know people who vary on the political spectrum widely. I like to try and understand why people think differently, it's a very human thing.
Social media can no doubt be an effective tool in politics, but I fear that it is dividing us rather than uniting us. To be trapped in a Facebook one sided bubble is not helpful, even if you are certain that your side is right. I feel strongly that it is necessary to consider other points of view even if it won't change your mind at all. Show some good sportsmanship. By all means fight for a cause you believe in but remember that no one has ever changed anyone's mind by insulting them. Perhaps getting it off social media is the first step.