But there is one media outlet with which people seem to be pointedly irate: social media - the safe harbor of human interaction previously reserved for pop culture memes and dancing babies has been infiltrated by political discourse. And people are furious.
"Ugh. I'm deactivating Facebook," they say, "I'm so sick of the politics."
To which I think, "Really?"
I'm genuinely flummoxed by this reaction. Social media offers possibly the best platform for national and global discourse ever in the history of the world. Twitter has ignited revolutions and toppled oppressive dictators, but you would prefer we stick to photos of family vacations and updates about gym routines?
Let me be clear. I do not approve of idiotic, unsubstantiated, isolated remarks like "Obama sucks" or "Screw Romney" any more on social media than I do in real life (which is to say, not at all). Let's first agree to stop provoking with simplistic jibes like 3rd graders at recess. It's not productive, and it just sounds ignorant. If you have 24 hours of news at your disposal and that's best you can come up with, you're either lazy or illiterate, so please be more creative and thoughtful.
But THEN. Social media could be the best thing to ever happen to democratic elections.
It's uncomfortable. Progress usually is. It's unsettling to learn that your friends have such vastly different worldviews than you thought, or maybe you just never had to think about it before. The issue of abortion never came up, because that's not polite dinner conversation. Or perhaps you're shocked and disheartened to learn that your high school pals think poverty is a myth, despite all those really sad pictures your shared from your recent missionary trip to Uganda. These topics just hadn't come up while you were watching the game or playing beer pong or shopping.
That sick feeling in your stomach is fury. It's fire. It's passion. And it's exactly what our country needs. A politically apathetic "dialogue" of memes and LOLCats is good for a laugh, but while we are busy watching internet videos of people watching internet videos, other people are busy writing legislation to take away your rights or take away your money. If it makes you angry when people say things like, "everyone should healthcare, regardless of how much money they make" or "abortion is murder," be angry in a productive way.
Write a letter to your newspaper, write a blog post, send a tweet, stand on the sidewalk with a poster, but say something. That's how democracy is supposed to work. You have freedom of speech, too, so don't get cranky when other people exercise theirs. There is too much liberty at stake to sit scrolling idly through Tumblr while people who believe that dinosaurs lived in harmony with Adam and Eve are being elected as national legislators and sponsoring state-sanctioned rape bills.
Don't stop using Facebook because it alerts you to upsetting opinions on welfare, taxes, women's rights, racism, religion, (gay) marriage, and education. Use your own platform to speak up and make your opinion heard, too. The fact that African Americans are now considered full humans (as opposed to the original three-fifths) is a testament to the fact that political opinions and policy can and will change over time, but only if and when a critical mass of citizens speak up to challenge the status quo in between playing Farmville and Words with Friends.