Some of my friends’ Facebook feeds include well-shared images demanding everybody on social media shuts up about independence. On Twitter there are lots of people – on both sides – urging everybody to “STFU”. “It’s tediously boring,” one says. “I’m all about democracy and using your vote but SERIOUSLY please just all shut up. Overkill.”
I understand the feeling. The independence campaign has been running for two years now, and over the last wee while both sides have been increasingly vocal. The result is that people I follow for one reason – because they’re friends, because I like their books or their music, because I’ve worked with them – are now posting political content, which isn’t what I followed them for.
When it’s content I don’t agree with, it feels a bit like being harangued by the Fast Show’s religious evangelists, ridiculous characters who try to turn every conversation into one about Jesus.
The thing is, though, most of the content people share on social media isn’t content I’m interested in. I don’t give a flying shite about TV talent shows or baking competitions, about football or the festivals I didn’t go to, about music I don’t like or memes I’ve seen a thousand times before. I’m quite sure many of my friends don’t want to know about my music or journalism or the hilarious thing my kids did today.
I don’t get angry about that stuff. I just ignore it, and if it gets too much, if I find that people are constantly posting stuff I don’t want to see, I mute it or hide it or in extreme cases, unfollow or unfriend them.
I understand the annoyance, I do, but this is really important, and really positive – especially when most of the national media is letting us down so badly. As my wife put it:
I’m incredibly grateful for the internet and social media. Less that 100 years ago women didn’t even have the vote and now we have a voice and a place where we can share information and engage with other people’s opinions – and then, decide for ourselves how to vote.
If people are doing the cloth-eared evangelist thing and trying to bring indy into irrelevant topics then of course that’s very rude, but if people are responding to political posts and attempting to engage and debate that’s a fantastic thing. Over the years politicians seem to have lost the idea that they should be scared of us, not the other way round. Scotland’s reconnecting with politics in a way I haven’t seen in my lifetime, and that’s wonderful and very powerful.
Alex Massie, writing in the Spectator, says:
Of course there has been stupidity and dishonesty and some unpleasantness but, on the whole, the notable feature of the campaign has been its civility. There will be some fraying of this decency in the final, fevered fortnight but this vigorous political carnival has been good for politics and good for Scotland. It has also been a revolt against politics as usual: a cry, from the heart as much as from the head, for a different way of doing things.
That’s something to celebrate, not something to silence.
Yessers and Nawers in Scotland agree on little, save perhaps this: the campaign has been a steroid injection for democracy. Not just because tens of thousands have returned to the electoral register but because politicians are talking about big things at last. Things that go beyond a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote. ‘Yes’ or ‘no’, change is coming. This is what politics is supposed to be about; this is what we’re supposed to want.
I think he’s right, and I think that’s well worth having odd thing you don’t agree with appearing in your News Feed.
As ever, my wife gets the last word:
Come the 19th September we can all return to posting cute pics of the kids and jokes about wine, but when your country is about to make the biggest political decision of its life, you can’t expect people to be silenced. Maybe you just need to ‘hide’ us for the next 14 days :)