In Defence Of Staying Friends With All The Tories On Facebook
The Debrief: They might seem like pricks, but pricks are what we need to burst the bubbles we envelope ourselves in when we only ineract with people 'like us'
It was the shy Tories who did it. Who snuck up on us and took a majority just when we weren’t expecting it. Or it was just the lazy lefties who failed to win the election, apparently too young or too consumed with social media updates like ‘FUCK THE TORIES’ to actually get out there and vote. Or it was the working classes who went to UKIP because they felt disenfranchised. While the SNP live it up in Parliament with their refreshing – they’re tweeting photos of their chip butty lunches up on the roof of the stuffiest public institution in the land – social media approach, it looks as if the left lost it in part due to our online whining.
I’ll put my champagne down, hold my hands up and admit that I’m a sore loser. I can’t understand who on earth voted for a government who’ll cut more jobs from the public sector, who’ll withhold money from disabled people, who'll think it's no problem that in-work benefits are a thing, where we’ve got two cabinet ministers who want to revive the death penalty, a disabilities minister who’s voted to cut funding to disabled children, a homoepath enthusiast and an anti-abortionist for health ministers, an equalities minister who voted against gay marriage, and Boris Johnson elevated, once again, to a status above ‘squidgy clown for Deloitte’s after-dinner speeches’.
In the hangover of the election, I’ve tried to make myself whine less and feel better about the result. The Tories’ tax cuts will benefit me. I’ll see a few more quid in my bank statement every month. Yippee! But even the harshest critic of Ed Miliband’s bacon sandwich eating must have known that personal riches mean shit if people around you are in desperate need? Even from a place of privilege I am in need of public services. Even if you don't, just look around you.
We’re told there’s been an economic recovery, but there's homelessness, shuttered up shops and perverse regeneration to turn living space for local people into vanity boltholes for foreign zasquillionaires.
Measles outbreaks in 2013 correlate better with the election results (especially in London) than coalfields. pic.twitter.com/Ro55JTwV6M— Malcolm Coles (@malcolmcoles) May 10, 2015
Maps show a correlation between dense populations (where e.g. measles popped up in 2013) and Labour supporters – and I’d hazard a guess that the more different types of people you come into contact with, the easier it is to realise that they’re just…normal people, sometimes dealt a bad hand, with very few people like themselves in power.
That's why, instead of deleting the louder, gloaty Tories I ‘know’ (I went to Exeter University, it has Etonians, blue-bloods and landed gentry, wooo!). I'm keeping them as ‘friends’. From the guy who posted a photo of himself in the blurry background of a photo of David Cameron, to the girl posting pro-foxhunting articles, I'm biting my tongue and refusing to shut these people out - unless they delete me first. They might seem like pricks, but pricks are what we need to burst the bubbles we envelope ourselves in when we only ineract with people 'like us.'
For those who talk about politics online, the expectation was that the notions of equality, all built around basic respect for people and giving the underprivileged a fairer playing ground, would trickle down, meme-like, to the less media savvy. Just like ‘The Dress’ arrived on an older relative’s Facebook page two weeks after everyone else had got bored and moved on: ‘Omg! WHAT colour IS It?!’.
But there’s evidently a whole swathe of this country that either haven’t seen the touching articles where people talk of how much harder certain policies (say for example Bedroom Tax) has made living with a disability, or simply don’t care.
Hopefully, through remaining in some sort of contact with the louder Tories, I get a better idea of what’s swaying the shy Tories over to their way of thinking and can then see what's lacking in the left-wing's appeal.
A recent segment on This American Life followed canvassers as they tried to get voters who were anti-abortion to come around to their way of thinking. To get the voters to change their minds, they tried a technique of talking to the voters about their own families, asking if they knew any people who might accidentally become pregnant at a bad time, then brining in their own experiences of abortion. By the end of the chat, the voters were measurably more pro-choice.
A year after, the voters were asked again whether they’d be pro or anti choice. The ones who’d spoken to a canvasser who’d had an abortion were far more likely to remain converted to be pro-choice than the ones who’d spoken to a person who’d never had an abortion. The same process worked with attitudes towards gay marriage. The lesson? If you want to convince someone of something, you have to get as personal as possible.
And Facebook is a definite way of doing that. Over on Facebook, people they can see that I’m in a same-sex relationship, they can see that I’ve got queer mates, I've got brown mates, I've got mates from the EU, I've got mates who don’t have names or faces like theirs. Once me and my friends are normalised to them and their friends, so are our needs. It’s not ideal, because me and my friends can’t begin to represent every single minority, nor are any of us appointing ourselves as representatives. But it’s a start, right?
Ahead of the election I was so encouraged; Facebook glowed red with Labour support (or, a weaker version of it; mere detestation of the Tories), but for all of that pomp, it clearly didn’t work. For the left wing to take advantage of the open goal an austerity government has left us with, the left cannot be this bright button in a literal sea of blue. It needs to spread, it needs to disseminate and to do that we need to be open, understanding and kind.
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