My name is Taylor Wall and I’m a second year active member in the Junior League of Minneapolis. With this being an election year, I think it’s important to discuss how we as voters and members of Junior League are engaging members of our community about this election.
Everyday on the news and online, I keep hearing and reading that our country is more divided than ever on this election. Let me preface this by saying 2020 will only be the third election I’m able to vote in, so my pool of comparison on this topic is limited at best. That being said, it doesn’t feel like an outrageous thought to me that maybe we are incredibly split, and I have to imagine that at least part of that can be attributed to the way we digest and discuss politics on social media.
Personally, I’m a huge fan of social media. You can find me scrolling Tik Tok when I can’t sleep and, of course, I’ve fallen for the occasional targeted ad on Instagram. But I also see the downside of these apps when I scroll through the comment section of any political post and see as strangers or even worse, friends, unleash on each other. Yes, social media is great for catching up with friends and sharing a funny meme, but do these platforms allow for the nuanced and complex arguments that political discussions require? I can say confidently after having seen these discussions play out online and even participated in them on occasion that no, they do not. No one feels better afterwards, no one changes their mind, and no one better understands the other side. So really, what’s the point in them?
Rather than spin my wheels in those discussions and drive myself crazy, I’ve spent much of my time trying to gain a deeper understanding of how the other half thinks and how to convey what I believe without attacking someone. Admittedly, this is no easy feat because these are not just political topics for me, they are issues that are a direct reflection of my core values. Knowing that, I hope to never be apathetic enough to not feel personally about them.
That being said, if I want someone to understand why I feel so passionate in my beliefs, I have to first understand why they feel equally as passionate about theirs; I have to reach across the aisle and understand the perspective that differs from my own. In short, I have to practice empathy if I’m ever going to have meaningful political discourse with people whose values I don’t share. For me, shifting these conversations from social media to in person dialogue has been a huge asset when approaching these difficult discussions, and it has helped me practice the patience and empathy they often require.
Part of what has helped me become so impassioned in my beliefs and empathetic in my approach is by seeing how the policies of our leaders impact the communities around me. Being a member of Junior League has helped in that regard with the vast volunteer opportunities with the League. These have given me the chance to immerse myself in Minneapolis’ communities that are directly impacted by the opportunity gap our organization works to bridge. While I work every day to be more understanding of other viewpoints, I will be voting on November 3rd with these communities in mind, and I urge everyone to consider doing the same.