Ivan Natividad: The politics of social media | TheUnion.com

Ivan Natividad: The politics of social media

Ivan Natividad

On social media you can be whoever you want to be, or whoever you want people to believe you are.

So the foot selfies in the sand at some exclusive Bahamas beach resort, with the sun setting over the horizon in the background, are what we usually see come across our Instagram feeds.

"My life is one vacation after the other #blessed."

Right.

This is what happens when politicians treat our political discourse and policy like an Instagram account. Picking and choosing what matters based on talking points and political agendas.

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While that type of life exists for some people, the majority of us aren't lying in a hammock sipping Mai Tais all day.

I'd like to see a selfie picturing that bunion on the ball of your foot that you get from standing at work all day, with a finished microwave dinner and an old episode of Wheel of Fortune playing in the background.

"Work. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. #thisisreallife."

Not as glamorous.

So we pick and choose the parts of our world we want to share.

It's our own self-indulged marketing campaign, feeding the brand that is our life, and giving us a way to exclude major parts of ourselves that we may find irrelevant to the identity we want projected.

Kind of like how we treat our politics?

According to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey, Americans can add another issue to the laundry list of things that are polarizing us.

What it means to be American.

Conducted in February, the report found that seven in 10 people polled, regardless of political affiliation, felt the country is losing its identity.

Republicans cited a culture grounded in Christian beliefs and early European traditions as essential to U.S. identity. While Democrats felt the country's history of global diversity and a tradition of offering refuge to the persecuted as significant elements of the nation's identity.

Democrats, Republicans and independents, though, agreed on certain tenants which include "a fair judicial system and rule of law, the freedoms enshrined in the Constitution, and the ability to get good jobs and achieve the American dream."

When asked what the greatest threats were to the American way of life, Democrats pointed to a fear of the country's political leaders, political polarization and economic inequality. Most Republicans instead cited illegal immigration as a major concern.

The bunion is on the other foot.

On Wednesday, Cristhian Bahena Rivera, a 24-year-old Mexican man who illegally came to the United States, was charged with the murder of Mollie Tibbetts, a 20-year-old white University of Iowa student. The story has gotten national attention, and has been linked by certain news outlets to the debate around immigration policy, though members of Tibbetts' family have denounced the politicizing of her death.

In late July, Nia Wilson, an 18-year-old black woman was murdered while returning home on a Bay Area Transit train in Oakland. John Lee Cowell, a 27-year-old white man with a long criminal history of violence, was arrested and may face the death penalty. While law enforcement deny any evidence of a hate crime, the case has awoken racial tensions in the Bay Area after an alleged alt-right group known as the "Proud Boys," and supporters of Wilson, clashed on the day of the victim's vigil.

These are two young women murdered around the same time.

One, though, has become a rallying cry for the President of the United States. The other, more or less ignored … Why?

The politics of social media.

This is what happens when politicians treat our political discourse and policy like an Instagram account. Picking and choosing what matters based on talking points and political agendas.

We get an even more divided populace who can't agree on a collective identity, and the illusion that certain lives are valued more than others.

The brand is failing.

Ivan Natividad is Digital Editor at The Union. To contact him call 530-477-4242 or email inatividad@theunion.com.

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