An old bar rule used to be “no politics or religion” or “let’s not talk about politics or religion in the bar… ’cause, ya know, maybe we shouldn’t discuss this kind of sensitive stuff while we’re drinking.” These topics can be heated discussions when people are sober, never mind under the influence.
In the era of social media, I’ve realized that maybe the beer/alcohol isn’t the key factor after all. Maybe the key factor is any situation that supplies people with bigger balls than they might have had otherwise.
Just like how people tend to say things they wouldn’t have had the balls to say before a few drinks, the same goes with social media. People tend to have much larger balls when it comes to being anonymously brash on social media (versus actual in-real-life conversations).
Strangely, this kind of thing gives me hope, and here’s why: People across the boards seem to think that we Americans are more polarized than ever.
I disagree. I just think it’s more visible thanks to social media.
I think the majority of the people making ruckuses about all things political were doing the same thing 20 years ago, only their audiences were much smaller, and couldn’t be shared with everyone you ever met with the click of a button.
Think about it: I can write a political post on FB today and my whole family and current friends might see it. But also a few dozen of my high school classmates might see it too… Majority of whom I’d probably have no contact with if it weren’t for the emergence of social media. Same with ex-coworkers, college friends, and others that I probably never would have heard from again had it not been for social media.
Sure, it would be nice if everyone was polite and respected each other’s opinions…but sorry folks, that’s called Fantasyland.
Here’s a stat that will make you feel better about the current state of politics and “polarized America”: The most highly rated political TV show of all time is Bill O’Reilly. At his peak, he averaged just under 3 million viewers.
And the most popular liberal political shows? 1-2 million people watched them regularly, at their respective heights.
And if you wanna talk about talk radio, Rush Limbaugh topped out at 13-14 million regular listeners. NPR, on the whole, taking second.
This means that if you add up all O’Reilly’s regular watchers, Limbaugh’s regular listeners, the most popular other liberal and conservative shows, and randoms who watch/listen to none of the above, but watch/listen to some other shows, we’re talking about less than 10% of the American population (because there’s a lot of overlap).
Less than 10%.
As a reference point, the TV show Friends averaged 20 million viewers or more each year in its 10-year run. Most seasons hit the mid-20-millions, and one season almost hit 30 million viewers.
Basically this means that during Friends’ worst season ever, they had as many viewers as the best season ever for all political shows, right, left, TV, and radio combined.
So yeah, I get “down” sometimes when I see “so many” liberals and conservatives at each others’ throats on FB and in the comments sections on news articles. But then I remind myself that all these dicks being rude and disrespectful towards each other only account for a small percentage of our overall population in the U.S.
Which leads me to believe that the large majority of us are just reasonable people trying to simply deal with the day-to-day and enjoy life while they still have it, rather than use their free time to be dicks.
Most of us are on almost-the-same page.
And that gives me hope.
My name is Suzanne Jacobetz, aka The Cursing Gourmet, and I am Bridget’s older (not necessarily wiser) cousin. I’m Generation X all the way and do not enjoy it when I hear 80s/90s rock on classic rock stations. I live in the mountains in Colorado with Mike, my husband of 10 years, 15+ miles from a grocery store. It’s a very quiet, peaceful life, or at least it used to be: a year ago we had our first kiddo, a sweetie pie named Isabelle ❤️