Our time on social media has arrived

By: James R. Henery - Guest columnist

Even though Laurinburg and Scotland County are not usually found as routine subjects on social media platforms, our time has come.

Whether it’s Facebook or Instagram or Twitter, this community unfortunately is exhibiting the kind of behavior that has become all too common designed just to agitate and divide. We seem to take delight in just being, well, snarky or nasty because we can.

I know. I teach communications at St. Andrews and my students who don’t even live here have become interested in our politics, our airing of dirty laundry, our way of taking sides and even beating each other up publically (or on, yes, social media). They are paying attention, and it’s not necessarily for the best reasons. They call it, simply, drama.

My students ask: what is going on? They say: we are taught to be civil, to engage discussion, to seek the truth, to disagree without being disagreeable.

And I lament and respond: politics and tough choices and adults and elections can be a messy and exhausting mix.

What’s happening here as we approach a challenging election is a microcosm of what is transpiring in our country. It is a picture of friction and discontent circulating throughout and those who feel left out or hurt or unhappy are finding ways to vent, and elections seem to be the canvas on which to express themselves, one vote at a time. After all, it is our way and our right.

But unfortunately, it’s now become fashionable not to just discuss or chat or argue but to attack, to accuse, to separate, to embarrass in 140 characters or less.

And the losers in this arena? All of us. For when we lose civility and common sense, we forfeit our decency and our ability to get along.

For months, if we read story after story of city council meetings and actions or school board information, we have been given information that on one hand clarifies their actions and the associated costs and potential tax revenues. But of course, those opposed have raised questions about the need and the costs and even the accuracy plus a tinge of conspiracy theory or disputing any of the information from the beginning.

Sometimes it’s difficult to figure out which side seems to know what’s going on and who is right and who is wrong. This newspaper, as it should, has been thorough in covering all sides, including the current candidate profiles (and yes, even the advertisements).

The bottom line for us—citizens, voters, etc.—is what or in whom we believe and how will we vote if we take into consideration all that we know or do not know.

That decision should not be decided per how many signs appear along the highways and intersections. That decision should be decided on the basis of what is fact, not rumor, reason, not mere feeling or nostalgia.

Back to my students. They spend money here. Their parents visit. Sports teams come every week. What do they want? Surprisingly they don’t want to go to Aberdeen or Southern Pines or eat at Cook Out. They want to stay here. But they want more. Bring on a Starbucks or another sit-down middle range restaurant and shopping they say.

Now if our actions and behavior could nurture that kind of economic activity in Laurinburg, then this election could really be about more than just two or three sides fighting it out in meetings.

But what do my students really know, those who spend 8-10 months here and seem to sense that we are not happy campers? They come from all corners of North Carolina and wonder what we are really about in this somewhat isolated small corner. And I tell them we are just a bit uneasy, just real people who need to invest in what they think is important and necessary for our way of life.

But that is the core, the substance, of any election. We make choices that must transcend any election.

If we are to escape the perils of social media that expose our memes and our drama, we have to do and act and become better.

James R. Henery

Guest columnist

Dr. James R. Henery is an assistant professor of communication studies and university chaplain at St. Andrew’s University.

Dr. James R. Henery is an assistant professor of communication studies and university chaplain at St. Andrew’s University.