50 min
By: ENC Leaders

Episode 31: Tara, Usap Tayo

The 2022 national election is coming up and we are already seeing a lot of heated conversations about it, especially on social media. How do we choose to value our relationships over our disagreements and have a healthy discourse?

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DISCLAIMER: This episode is not intended to sway anyone to vote for a certain candidate. The views and opinions in this podcast are those of the hosts and do not reflect those of the organization they belong to.

Why are we having this conversation?

Jello:

While it is not yet the campaign period and we are still in the stage of finalizing the list of candidates running for certain positions, social media is already polarized and toxic. We are having this conversation so that we would know how to prepare and go about all of these.

Dave:

Looking at what happened in the most recent national elections, it is very evident that social media has a very powerful influence on all of us. It is interesting to know what will happen in the next couple of months as we know that social media is a huge part of our lives already.

Jello:

This episode is about rules of engagement especially on current issues like politics today. How do we agree to disagree?

Is social media an ideal place to have conversations and discussions?

Dave:

It is a great place to start conversations but not the only place for it to happen. What makes it a good place to start conversations is its aspect that breaks geographical limitations, allowing us to talk amidst being far away from each other. However, we cannot really say we can fully engage a particular person based on what they post on social media because everything we post is directed with an intention or curation. 

Jello:

We were able to live in a time where social media does not exist yet and probably, some of our listeners cannot imagine a world without it. Social media is really a game changer in terms of how the world now communicates. It is a great way to access information and express our opinion.

I wrote about an article about freedom of expression in enc.ph and I think the pivotal moment in social media is the invention of the hashtag. Before, the hashtag’s only use was like an instant access to a library wherein posts are categorized based on it and clicking it will allow us to see all similar posts with the same hashtag. Today, it is now used for social activism and online advocacies to reach more people and increase awareness, making the voice louder. Because of the discovery of the hashtag, social media now is not just a tool for entertainment. It evolved into becoming a platform for opinion. The increase in social activity in social media has also created cultures (e.g. cancel culture).

Social media could be a good starting point for expressing our opinion but because of the different cultures that have emerged over the years, like cancel culture, wherein if we have different opinions we are cancelled out.

Dave:

The algorithm of social media would intentionally show us what we are looking at so that we would think that it is what everybody thinks. This is why when we encounter people who believe otherwise, we are surprised and we wonder why. The hashtag is being used to manipulate the algorithm, telling as many people to use it so that it could appear that this is what the majority thinks.

Jello:

Simply put, social media platforms are a business that profits on marketing and advertising. This is why our preferences are boosted to appear on our feeds. It does not show us a complete picture of the world and only gives us what we want to see so that we would continue to use these platforms and more advertisers will pay for it. Therefore, it is not good to just rely on social media because it is just an echo chamber of what we believe. It is still better to talk with each other person-to-person rather than discussing on social media.

How should we engage each other in conversations or discussions?

Jello:

The best way to discuss polarizing opinions is through dialogues, not debates. What usually happens is we debate with one another and it seems like we have unlearned how to listen. Maybe it will be better if we go back to the principle of listening and asking questions to understand, instead of listening so rebut and debunk what the other is saying.

Dave:

It is not wrong to be vigilant of other people’s claims and double checking them as facts are important. However, we could have a better discussion if we learn to listen and understand where the person is coming from and why this person believes what he or she believes.

Jello:

In social media, we can see communication roadblocks (e.g. name calling, ad hominem, etc.) and the social media inhibition effect, which is proposed by a professor named John Suler. This theory tries to explain people’s behavior on social media, particularly why people have the guts to be on attack mode. Social media removes all the inhibitions because we feel safe inside the cloak of anonymity.

Dave:

A book I’ve read called “Reclaiming Conversation” alludes that the danger of being in fully online mode is forgetting to have quality conversations in multiple layers. This includes conversation with God, with self, with people we love, and with the world. 

How should we engage with each other in terms of the topic about elections? What should be our posture?

Dave:

Start with kindness. Be kind with one another.

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Colossians 4:6

Let us remember that we are kingdom citizens. This applies to posting and talking.

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:35

Before our political bias or preference, let us go back first to our identity as Christians.

Jello:

Maybe we have focused more on the differences that divide us more than the things that unite us and we stand together for. We all want the best for our nation. We all want a bright future. However, it all boils down to how we are going to get there and who will bring us there. Maybe we can focus more on what we want in common and then later on discuss. Let us set aside personalities first and talk about what we need to get there. After that, let’s try to talk about who can bring us there objectively. We may probably still not come to an agreement but we can still come to a point where we give respect to each other amidst our disagreements.

Is it okay to agree to disagree?

Jello:

The point being raised here is that if millions of people are at stake, we cannot agree to disagree so therefore, everybody must know what is right. I get that. However, I don’t see everything so I cannot claim that my views and opinions are superior to others. We cannot agree if we are already set to think that our own opinion is the right one.

Kapag lahat nagsisigawan, lahat nagpapataasan, mas lalo tayong walang patutunguhan. Kaya kailangan natin matutong makinig.

The Lord is sovereign in this election. There is more to this election season than just a numbers game or a game of popularity. 

Dave:
The more we impose what we believe on others, the more we become a person we try to avoid. Understanding where they are coming from is very powerful. Even though you disagree with a person, you can agree in a sense of understanding where this person is coming from.

If respect is gone, we neglect a person’s innate value of human dignity. The problem is in the name of being right, we devalue someone made in the image of God.

Sometimes, people do not act on what they know but they act on what they feel. As Christians, we should take into account that we are not just hitting their heads with something. We should also make them feel valued and loved. Look at it in a bigger sense of things—the humanity in it, the image of God in it. Hopefully, it changes the way we approach someone. 

Jello:

We are not discussing moral absolutes. What we are talking about is the diversity in opinion and perspective. Generally speaking, the posture that we want in terms of how we engage with one another in conversations like this are the following:

  1. Be kind and be respectful. Understand and recognize that every person is created in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, all people are valuable. Let us not step on each other’s dignity just because we disagree on political matters.
  1. Be humble. We don’t know all the facts and we don’t understand everything so sometimes, we could be wrong and the other person could be right. The posture of humility gives us a sense of openness to learn and understand better. We can have harmony as we have discussions.
  1. Be open. Let us hear each other out and be patient. Openness does not just mean listening, it also means searching for answers ourselves, doing our own research, reading and whatever we need to do to be objective in weighing our options.
  1. Be in faith. Do not be anxious about the future of the Philippines. This is not to let go of any accountability or personal responsibility. At the end of the day, even if we vote for the wrong president and elect the wrong people in the office, we know that God will redeem us. We don’t know His process but we know God loves our nation. Let us study, research and vote for the right people but the fate of our nation is not up to our votes because God is the one in control.

Today on Campus is hosted by Dave Estrera and Jello de los Reyes, campus missionaries from different ENC centers in the Philippines.

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