For me, this election has been very different than previous elections. Yes, there are historic choices to be made and our country is embroiled in crisis. But I've felt in the past that those conditions were true too. What's different for me? Twitter. And for me, it has profoundly changed how this election felt and for me it reinvigorated my faith in the democratic and civil processes we have in the US.
Why? Instead of feeling talked at and broadcast to and somewhat isolated, I was participating in a national - and indeed international - town hall conversation. This discussion added a low latency hum to the entire election season but spiked around events such as the conventions and the debates. Red, blue, and purple it was great to be a part of a giant conversation around issues in which we should all be involved. By having these huge online conversations we all took just a little more responsibility for the issues themselves and that made the election more relevant.
For those of you who know me, you've probably heard my soapbox around the need to teach civics in schools again. Why? Because government is not this far away concept that is only there when you need something; it is the rules by which we collectively decide to live. The FCC controls information transmission. The Department of Agriculture regulates our food supply. The Social Security administration manages retirement benefits. These are, in effect, the values that we have collectively codified. We want to control who can broadcast information, we want safe food, and we want our elderly population to have a dignified end of life - enough that we are willing to pay for it. Any one of us may not agree with all of those values but they are what we have collectively agreed to. Don't like it? Lobby. Run for office. It's not the politicians' government. It is our government. Too often I feel like we miss this point...we like to complain a lot but don't always realize it is up to us if we want something different (back to why we need civics).
Having a collective conversation hopefully helps us understand different positions, parse apart our own positions into the values we really care about, and understand where there may be room to find agreement between people - I truly believe that we all have more values that we share than not. Politics is little more than this conversation of vetting differences and finding middle ground. And unless each of us individually wants to find a plot of unused land (a bit hard to do) and build our own self-sustaining complex, we need to learn how to live with each other...in all our wonderful and bizarre variations.
One direct impact of having this Twitterized conversation? I went to the polls today. I have tended to vote absentee and the election process is very transactional. This year it felt more neighborly and wanted to see my neighbors and to thank the many election volunteers that make voting possible.
Here's to more important conversations.
How has Twitter & other online tools changed your experience?