Saturday, November 10, 2012

Social media and politics

By Wendy Waren

Tuesday’s Presidential Election had citizens spouting off at the mouth something fierce. Opinions and memes were being posted well in advance of Tuesday’s showdown, but the gloating and poor sportsmanship following the announcement of the next president were just downright polarizing—even more so than we’ve seen in recent months. 

One Louisiana Restaurant Association restaurant member was lambasted by a customer on his personal Facebook page for sharing his thoughts on the state of the nation and one candidate’s lip service given to fixing our country’s problems. He reminded the customer that this was his personal page and that on his business page he refrained for sharing his political beliefs. That didn't stop his Facebook friends, who sided with him, from piling on in his defense. 

As the dust settles from the Nov. 6 hoopla, I've been contemplating whether or not some of these individuals who are cheering or commiserating actually participate in the political process other than occasionally casting their vote. Professionally, I spend a great deal of time working within the political arena. It takes time, dedication, commitment and conviction to stand up for the rights of an industry. Personally, I get involved by calling, writing letters and encouraging others to be heard on issues important to them. It’s time consuming no doubt. 

This week I was asked to speak on behalf of a program that I spend my Saturdays volunteering for, 4-H, administered by the LSU Ag Center. The entire budget was eliminated from New Orleans Mayor Landrieu’s 2013 proposed budget and after more than two hours sitting in on the New Orleans Council’s Budget Hearings, I learned that there was an error and we were not on the agenda. 

A key city official even said to me, “This happens all the time. It’s the way it goes.” I was floored at his defeated and rather nonchalant attitude after I spent time preparing and waiting for my turn at the podium, which ultimately never came. Could this be the reason more citizens don’t take part in the process? Probably. Should citizens take it lying down? No. 

My disappointment was evident. I wanted to pull out my phone and start sounding off with Facebook status updates and tweets, but I reminded myself, that in light of all of it, I needed to remain positive and focused, and remember who my online friends are—they are restaurateurs, media, politicians, family and friends. The same applied with me commenting on the Presidential Election. 

In real life it’s also important to remember that although someone may look like you, they may not have the same political beliefs. I heard from countless people this week that “We’re totally screwed,” or “We won, isn’t that great?” I keep my political convictions to myself for a reason. Voting is personal to me. 

Sometimes the situation warrants reserving the right to keep your mouth shut.