The Internet has been a ubiquitous part of American life for some time now. For people that are just beginning college, the idea of life before social media and internet and Google doesn't exist. A couple of years ago, mine and my peer's lifetimes were delineated by Before Social Media and After Social Media, but today's college students probably don't remember a distinct time before then. Myspace was huge in middle school, but smartphones and other bourgeoning social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram), and in particular iPhones, weren't overly common until late high school and until recent years.
Every generation has an invention or trend by which it will be defined for decades. I believe firmly that social media will be that invention/trend for millennials. The internet itself has been massively important and undoubtedly the more important forebear of the Social Media Era, but social media itself will be markedly (and disproportionately, considering it occupies such a minuscule part of the internet) more influential than the entirety of the internet.
In today's society, it is considered abnormal and potentially alarming if someone is not present on social media, let alone heavily active. Twitter is where memes are born, news spreads like wildfire, and people even go to vent more directly and personally than in other spheres. Facebook is where people keep others updated on their lives, where people go to vent and trash businesses' reputation and gossip. Instagram is where people manicure their image so intentionally to send the message that their lives are a collection of attractive moments. Snapchat is where we go to let people know what we're doing, mainly with the intention to let people know we're doing something.
For me, personally, social media is a facade of myself. Sure, it's a good summation of myself, but I'm also very active on social media and make it a priority to post things that I feel are good representations of myself. But I get caught up in the FOMO and the likes and retweets and the affirmation that social media provides. I don't want to neglect that there are absolutely good things about social media. For teenagers and twentysomethings, social reaffirmation has always been a part of life, and social media just transferred where that affirmation comes from, which may be a good or bad thing. Social media also allows people to connect with others with whom they can personally relate and discuss important topics. Which leads me to my point.
As someone in the middle of the Millennial generation, I am told to be careful of my social media image. I am told to watch what I say, so as to not be interpreted as inflammatory or controversial. I am told to "stay away from politics."
As someone with CF, I don't have the luxury of avoiding "politics." And quite frankly, no American truly has that luxury. "Avoiding politics" has become a phrase by which people intend to communicate one of two messages. At best: don't discuss issues with people you may disagree, because these issues are too closely held to our hearts, so it might incite an argument. At worst: stop exercising your First Amendment right because someone may take it the wrong way. But that's exactly why I believe it's important to intentionally discuss these issues.
"Politics" is just a word that summates all current happenings of our government...which all directly affect all of us all the time. "Avoiding politics" means not being informed on the heroin epidemic, it means not caring about health care that we all inevitably need, it means not concerning yourself – especially if you're a white, heterosexual, cis, middle-class male – with the fact that some fellow Americans are still oppressed and face prejudice on a daily basis. It means not concerning yourself with science, or disaster relief, or any of that. It means not paying attention to sports (which, by the way, have always, always, always been political; that is not a new phenomenon).
I am a scientist, so I care about improving our education system, solving climate change, and ensuring people are properly vaccinated. I am a person that suffers from a chronic, genetic disease that is unfathomably expensive, so I am passionate about doing whatever means necessary to ensure that every American has cheap and excellent health care. I am a white male, which means I am aware of my white privilege and that I must use my position to educate myself on systemic oppression, police brutality, and many other issues that befall LGBTQ+ and minority communities, and with that new knowledge, speak out in support (I wholly support the NFL players kneeling in protest of police brutality) of those oppressed communities.
I care about problems because I am compassionate. I believe firmly in a government that uses compassionate, evidence-based, constituent-supported policies to solve the issues at hand.
I refuse to "avoid politics" because choosing to do that means choosing to go against my moral compass.
I refuse to "avoid politics" because I refuse to avoid what's happening in the world. Social media is my platform. Writing is my medium. I intend to use it for such.