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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Poked by a politician

    Gearing up for the Arizona general election in November? Looking for a way to research the issues? Well, forget the newspaper or TV smear campaigns. This year, political candidates are making it easy for us Gen-Yers who live in a world of blogging and virtual social networking.

    Following the sudden growth in the number of political candidates utilizing MySpace as a tool to reach young voters, Facebook.com recently created an “”election”” tab on the “”edit profile”” page, allowing users to join groups supporting candidates or particular issues.

    Now UA students can actively support incumbent state Rep. Linda Lopez – or link up with thousands of other college students who also believe pot should be legal – without ever having to leave their virtual comfort zones.

    Already, Facebook has 1,600 file pages dedicated to political candidates across the country. And the political use of online social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook should not come as a surprise to anybody.

    What politician would pass up the chance to advertise to millions of people for free? Especially advertising that so accurately represents their respective campaigns? (Gov. Schwarzenegger is friends with Adolf Hitler, according to his profile.)

    What is surprising is the way in which millions of Americans across the country have supported this new campaign by voluntarily posting their political affiliation and, often, exactly how they feel about certain controversial issues.

    The idea, at least, is great. Americans should be discussing politics. These are important issues that deserve attention and debate – and it is certainly nice to see who people are interested in taking up some of the political challenges that we face.

    And while it would be nice if one day Americans were more comfortable sharing their political ideologies with each other, it is fascinating that everyone seems so willing to share such personal information with anyone who is interested in looking on a Facebook-type program.

    But is political affiliation really so personal? Well, yeah, it is. A subscription to a political ideology expresses our relationship with our government, our relationship with our fellow men and our personal responsibilities in those relationships.

    That is some seriously personal information. And that kind of personal information makes sense for a political candidate to share to the mass public – after all, politicians are trying to get elected based on their opinions on certain sensitive issues. But that is a trade-off of a life in politics.

    We Americans ask our politicians to reveal information about themselves because we are dedicated to transparent government. Americans want to know how gubernatorial challenger Len Munsil feels about immigration. We want to know how tight Arnold and Adolf are.

    But we do a disservice to the solemnity of citizenship, not to mention undermine our own credibility, when we line up our support for drug decriminalization and tax-law reform next to photos of full-contact beer pong tournaments. Would you take Munsil seriously if his suit-and-tie buddies were holding his legs while he did a keg stand to “”Welcome to the Jungle”” on his MySpace profile?

    Some might argue they are just sharing their personal beliefs with friends. These are, of course, the same people who count 1,248 randoms as friends. They are sharing information with drinking buddies at best and mere strangers at worst.

    So what if Facebook allows us to make our profiles private? It seems that the majority of people don’t. Allowing strangers to view our profiles is like joining Greek Life. Everyone knows it’s ridiculous, even the people doing it, but that doesn’t mean we want to be left out.

    So let’s leave the politics out of Facebook for those of us not making a career out of it. Political beliefs aren’t on the same level as “”relationship status”” or “”favorite quotes.”” We should absolutely be taking up these debates and discussions, but we owe it to ourselves and to the seriousness of our democracy to take them up in the appropriate context.

    Our relationships with our society and our deeply held values are not something most of us feel comfortable sharing with actual strangers. And, appearances to the contrary, the population of virtual socializers really just don’t know each other that well, regardless of how many times we’ve poked.

    Stan Molever is a senior majoring in philosophy and economics. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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