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Opinion

Internet communicates political opinions harshly

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September 30, 2010

“Tom Emmer is the best candidate in Minnesota.” These were the words that awoke me from my sweet slumber at 1:30 a.m. Sunday. Sleeping with your window open on a college campus has its disadvantages, but I never knew it would brew a ridiculous political battle.

Annoyed by the girl that that woke me from my beauty sleep, I got up out of bed, walked over to my window to yell something like, “Tom Emmer is a total joke!” Childish, I know, but to me, it was all fun and games. For those of you Wisconsin folks who don’t know who Tom Emmer is, he is the republican candidate running for governor of Minnesota against democratic candidate, Mark Dayton.

After hearing my comment, the drunken girl stopped, looked over to my window (which was impressive since she was about three sheets to the wind) and to my surprise, she declined to comment back and ended up walking away with her two friends. I thought her reasoning for this was because she thought it was just stupid and meaningless to debate politics through a window (which it probably was). The next day, I logged on to the infamous college social network, Facebook. I found that the drunken girl who I had quarreled with the night before was not only a friend on Facebook, but she had sent me a very immature, malicious message bashing on my political views. My favorite line in this message read as follows, “Get a job, you worthless liberal.”

I didn’t take the message seriously and it actually enlightened me and brought humor to my day. However, that type of reaction started to really puzzle me, so I talked with a political science major from the University of Minnesota, Allie Lorbecki. Lorbecki explained to me that since the internet has become such an incredible mainstream for media, it’s hard not to talk about politics or political candidates online. “There are definitely plus sides to it; candidates are able to send their message and Obama even used the internet for donations.” However, Lorbecki also informed me that there is a down side to politics on the internet as well. “It’s so cut throat, impersonal and rude. Personally, I can’t stand it.”

The interview with Lorbecki gave me some answers on the political side, but I still didn’t understand why she chose to communicate with me over the internet. My reasoning for this was: A, she was drunk, meaning she had a false sense of increased self-confidence at the moment. B, she was outside my window which meant there was an actually wall between us which cuts out the personal contact. C, she was walking with two six-foot guys so, in the case of me running out of my house like a crazy person and trying to beat my political views into her, her bodyguards would have intervened.

Why was she so scared to vocally communicate with me?

I talked with a communication major from Loyola University of Chicago, Madison Beaton. “Communication over the internet is a lot less personal and definitely puts up a lot more walls instead of taking them down.” Beaton described to me that it’s becoming a trend to express any type of opinion over the internet instead of sharing them in person. Apparently, People feel more comfortable hiding behind a computer in their own home and that’s why they feel they can lash out and be more hurtful. “It pretty much all comes down to courage.”

The answer I was looking for wasn’t as easy as I thought, however, I have come to a conclusion. From what I learned from Beaton and Lorbiecki, I believe her actions were due to a combination of a generation that relies heavily on expressing their political views over the internet, and to a college student who severely lacks in adequate communications skills.

Overall, this experience was disappointing but I don’t think this girl is a true representation of the whole University of Wisconsin-River Falls student body.

Sarah Hellier is a student at UW-River Falls.