“First Amendment, my ass…” by Alessandra Jacobs

After graduation, I learned that writing is not just this intense academic pursuit. Writing is not only something you do to get graded on. Writing does not solely encompass the ages 5 to 22, and then you are off the hook. Writing is entwined in life; it is as necessary as speaking. In my post-college life, I write to-do lists, memos for work, post-its to my boss, Instagram captions and, Facebook statuses, more-often-than-not linking to a politically-charged article.

 The need for decorum in social media is seldom mentioned, and I didn’t even consider it until this recent political campaign and the dawn of a new era in free speech. Up until this point, I have never been very political or personal on Facebook or Instagram. My rule was: if I wouldn’t say it to a stranger, I wouldn’t post-it online. I still follow that rule, but I recently have had to add a few more stipulations in the wake of this new climate.

Recently, I had posted a link to an article on Facebook, a link from NPR.org. I would deem NPR a fairly reputable source, but hey, who am I to say? The article was titled: “Nonreligious Americans Remain Far Underrepresented in Congress”. I liked the article because it identified the fact that just one of the 535 members of Congress was affiliated as “nonreligious”. I considered that a topic worth exploring and was a fresh way of looking at the Congressional make-up. Oh wrong I was.

I say wrong, of course, satirically. A comment on my post from a non-friend surprised me. He had seen my status from a friend of mine liking it and adding it to her timeline; he , then, felt compelled to comment. I am always open to dissenting opinions, welcoming them even. Yet, I did not expect such aggressive and random disrespect. He questioned the validity of the article and the need of representation for the nonreligious portion of America. I was fine with his disagreement, but I was not fine with his response to my comment. His response was as follows:

I call them as I see them. Like or lump, your choice. Get your candidates up to run on your thoughts. After the polls close. Crawl home with your tails between your legs.

He had also proceeded to repost the article and called me an idiot in his repost (when someone reposts your article you get a little notification – not so wise on his part).  So I, of course, was not thrilled. I love a little political battle but not this type of petty nonsense. My initial reaction was to insult his small-mindedness, his political beliefs, his lack of education, and his rudeness. I wanted to answer in all caps, without spellcheck and all sorts of syntax error.

            I did, though, stop myself because I wanted this brief exchange to be productive. I calmed myself and gave a succinct and thought-out answer – at least to me:

No need to attack. It’s just an article written to express someone’s feelings. And I call it like I see it, and my opinion is just as valid as yours. Have a great night! And agree to disagree.

            I wanted the conversation to be of value, no matter how absurd two strangers fighting through Facebook statuses may be. He responded as such:

            Agreed, like your style, wish it could have been subject we both agreed on.

And that was that – two strangers battling it out online came to a respectful consensus. That is a rare result these days. I decided to write this on this particular because this is writing in its most basic and mundane form. This writing has the same value as a short story or poem you may create. I post articles on Facebook because I have passion for women’s rights and civil rights. I repost an article with a well-written explanation and defend it with statements and facts. My writing that I submit to literary magazines is of the same caliber that I respond to troll comments.

            That is the power of writing. It makes the mundane have value and influence. It can make you have said influence, be it of a positive or negative nature. I know I felt voiceless in this strange and overwhelming campaign. I took back my voice by finding legitimate articles (use your English 101 training for that) and posting them with a purpose. I didn’t, and still don’t, post articles to make a petty point or inundate peoples’ feeds with my brainwashed opinions. I need my ideas to have purpose.

            Society will continue to use social media as a professional and personal platform. Twitter is where many people find out what is happening in the world, moment by moment. I used to write every day without realizing it. I forgot that my notes to my boss on rough drafts and my twitter bio were still representations of me and my writing.

            I know that most of you reading this very sentence at least appreciate the art of writing, so remember the importance of daily writing. I love to use words to captivate people, and said words can have the power to have a stranger consider a world beyond the four walls of their skull.

I hope that the next time you find yourself in a Facebook tug-of-war, you consider that the comment you write has the same power, the same moving parts as “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief…” And allow your digital writing footprint to be as illustrious as the remarkable Charles Dickens.