Letter to the Editor: Online political commentary: Fad or true activism?

Tune in to over 300-plus channels on AT&T, Comcast or other digital cable providers and you are sure to find reality shows like Real Housewives of (insert any U.S. city here), “Jersey Shore,” “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” “Love and Hip-Hop” and the like. Log in to Twitter and Facebook during the same time and you are sure to see comments and tweets from friends and acquaintances detailing every nuance of the show’s plot. Not to mention the satirical memes on Tumblr and various blogs for the aforementioned shows.

Distinctively, our national and global culture is able to instantly agree, disagree and project our views and opinions of the media in a public forum. News mediums like CNN and FOX News have even taken to social media to get perspectives from the “laymen”; and what once used to be a scrolling ticker on breaking news can now be replaced with a scrolling ticker on what people are saying on Twitter about a show or event.

It would be superfluous of me to state how astounding the collaboration of technology and media has been on our society. However, reiterations never hurt anyone, right? During the 2008 presidential campaign, President Barack Obama knew how crucial it was to find innovative ways to connect with his supporters and centrists. He strategized a digital and social media campaign that is now being intensified in 2012, not only by him but by his Republican running mate, Gov. Mitt Romney.

Now with the social media market being a gateway to instant conversations about what is happening on TV and around the world, it is no surprise that people are taking advantage. According to the Nielsen Company, over 62.7 million people watched the 2012 first presidential debate on Oct. 3 and of that 62.7 million, over 10 million people took to Twitter about their thoughts of the candidates’ sparring techniques. Much of the tweeted discourse was in response to the position Romney took about PBS and “Sesame Street’s” impending doom, if he is elected.

The passion on my Facebook newsfeed was riveting, I must say. But how long does the euphoric feeling of people, especially young adults, being engaged in policy and political awareness last? Were the debates just a stage for entertainment, no different from the catfights and screaming sessions displayed on the “Bad Girls Club”? Or are U.S. citizens moving to a place of social and political activism by first starting with much needed dialogue and analyses on the political issues of today?

Despite the fact that there are those among us that spew grandiloquence without action, it is my strong belief that as a whole we are migrating to a political and social justice disposition, and social media, including social commentary, is simply a means to an end; that end being change. In a recent promotional video alternative singer and activist Alanis Morrisette said that “I think the pendulum swings in pop culture, you know there was the ’60s and ’70s where it was all social commentary and political commentary and then it went into ‘let’s give it a break’ and then in the ’90s it was more commentary … and I’d like to think there is a more of a return now to personal social, political commentary through art.”

Granted, I would not say that social media is art but art is expression and social media is also an avenue for expression. If Morissette’s perspective holds any accuracy it would seem that our current generation’s pendulum is swinging head first into activism and civic engagement.  In order to continue this movement and build momentum political commentary must begin to inch away from the technological interface and proceed to a place of in-person interactions with organizations, policymakers, companies; people.

A fad is a short-lived, intense enthusiasm for something. We all love entertainment and we may even succumb to the absurdities of reality TV. However, when we begin to address issues that impact the social, economic, political and cultural stability of our nation we cannot treat the discussion as if it was a new pair of cheaply made but atrociously expensive sneakers. Our social environment is not a fad and as citizens we must play a continued role in maintaining the effectiveness of our government and the officials that are accountable for it. I leave with this — if we must spill our political rhetoric into the ethers of the Internet we also must be willing to make our voices heard in the ethers of reality.

Learn. Think. Vote. Advocate.