The Importance of Context

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This past week the New England Patriots visited the White House for a visit following their recent Super Bowl win. According to Thomas Neumann of ESPN, the tradition of inviting sports teams to the White House started on Aug. 30, 1865, when President Andrew Johnson first welcomed the Brooklyn Atlantics and Washington Nationals amateur baseball clubs to the White House. The visits to the White House are usually lighthearted and fun, but the most recent visit of the New England Patriots got more coverage than it usually would.

The social media presence that Donald Trump has tends to get him into trouble, and often the reporters who he attacks look for ways to use social media against him. After Donald Trump’s statements about his inauguration attendance as opposed to President Barack Obama’s inauguration, a New York Times photo, comparing the two, flooded the internet. This picture caused a big debate on social media questioning the context surrounding the photo. This week, New York Times Sports’ Twitter account made a point to compare the number of the Patriots players attending this week and the players who attend two years ago when President Obama was President. There was only one issue; the photo lacked context.

Although only 34 Patriots players attended this week’s visit to the White House compared to the 50 two years ago, the emotions behind the post got the best of the writer for the New York Times, and he simply made a mistake. This is an important lesson that everyone should take note of, don’t allow emotions to dictate decisions.

As I have mentioned in a few previous posts, it is human nature to have a desire to feel validated in our views. The past few months have caused the constant battle between political affiliations to heighten and the emotions also attached to rise. This not only has an effect on society but can also have an adverse impact on those who engage in these political debates.

Dan Kahan, a law professor at Yale, did a study where he found that people use facts to try to prove their point of view on political issues. Instead of both parties agreeing once facts are presented, he found that the more information partisans get, the deeper their disagreements become. He says that “as a way of avoiding dissonance and estrangement from valued groups, individuals subconsciously resist factual information that threatens their defining values… what we believe about the facts, tells us who we are.”

Although facts supported by context might validate our views on an issue, they rarely change someone else’s opinion. As James Madison said, “As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed.”

5 Things to Consider Before Engaging in an Online Political Debate

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Like most people, I am glad that the 2016 President Election is (for the most part) behind us. It has been a relief to be able to get on Facebook and other social media sites without being blasted with constant news articles and political posts from everyone trying to make sure that their opinion is heard and known to everyone. Like I mentioned in my previous post, Craving to be Appreciated, everyone has a desire to validate their views, and they tend to be very passionate about their beliefs and will fight to defend them. While the disagreement and discussing different ideas often allows growth in society, it can also be detrimental to ourselves and our relationships with those around us if not done correctly. That is why I felt like I would share five tips that have helped me before I engage in a political debate (or any debate for that matter) online.

1. Don’t allow your emotions to get the best of you.

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I think that one of the biggest mistakes made people on social media is they tend to use it as a way to blow off steam, voice frustration, or as a personal journal to get their thoughts out. When people are upset, they often don’t think rationally and say things that they regret, are offensive, or can get them into trouble. CNBC posted an article a year ago about how your post on social media can get you fired if they reflect negatively on your company. The problem we run into is when we allow one thing to set us off without really understanding the issue or taking it out of context. Which leads me to my next tip:

2. Do your research.

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I am going to be honest for a minute here… One of my biggest pet peeves is for people to post something on social media without doing any research and only responding or reposting something they saw someone else post. One of the greatest pieces of advice I have received on this issue is an article from a professor I had a few years ago, Butler Cain. Cain mentions making sure that you are doing research into the article before posting it and that it is coming from a trustworthy source. Most people know which news sites they can trust, but most tend to stick to news sources that tend to share similar views as them. Which is why it is often important to remember to…

3.Beware of Biases (and the third-person effect)

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We live in a digital age that allows us to have so much information at our fingertips that it is easy to find information that supports our point of view. It seems like every debate I see on social media is a constant battle of people posting articles and statistics that support their point of view. A debate like this often focuses more on who’s right instead of what’s right and turns personal very quickly. Our informational, ideological, and partisan biases hinder us from being able to see many issues objectively. I know that I personally tend to be affected by the third-person effect, which happens when we feel we are not affected or influenced by the mass media but others (the third-person) are. The third person effect is often associated with advertisements but can also be seen in political views also.

I was enrolled in a government college course while I was in high school that helped shape how I gain opinions on news/political issues. My teacher made us use the New York Times, often seen as a more liberal source, to get all of the information for our assignments. He mentioned that since we are surrounded by conservative sources in the south, we needed to learn how to get our news from several sources. This helped me to get my news from numerous sources so that I am able to get the full story and not just the things that go along with my political views. To be fully educated on issues, you have to be willing to dig a little deeper and understand issues beyond how it is spun or media bias.

4. Understand That You Cannot Change Someone’s Viewpoint

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Like I mentioned before, it is easy for us to get caught up in the emotions involved with a political discussion and feel like we have to constantly defend our views. There is a very slim chance that we will change someone’s mind just by posting a political rant on Facebook or commenting on someone else’s post. In fact, there are brain studies that say that it is nearly impossible to change someone’s political belief.

Regarding this issue, Doris A. Graber and Johanna Dunaway state in their book, Mass Media and American Politics, that “Failure to pay attention to news may also spring from psychological factors. Cognitive balance theories postulate that people avoid information that disturbs their peace of mind, offends their political and social taste, or conflicts with information, attitudes, and feelings that they already hold. People are uncomfortable when exposed to ideas that differ from their own or that question the validity of their ideas. To avoid discomfort, people ignore discordant information. Selective exposure reduces the already slim chance that learning about different views will alter an individual’s established beliefs, attitudes, and feelings. Selectivity helps to explain the considerable stability in basic political orientations, such as party allegiance or foreign policy preferences.”

While political discussion allows growth in society that can bring positive change, heated political debates will do little to nothing to make a difference in people’s individual views. Since it is almost impossible to change someone’s political views, our political post on social media does not have nearly the impact we think we are going to have. That is why it is often important to…

5. Take a step back and disconnect

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There are numerous reasons to take an occasional break from social media and disconnect for a while. It is especially important whenever we are fired up about an issue. Instead of posting something that we will regret, or will get us fired, sometimes we should leave the computer or phone at home and go on a walk, get exercise, or spend time with loved ones. Social media tends to draw us in and keep our focus for extended amounts of time. We get addicted to the drama, attention, and desire to feel included that we often forget the most important things in life. Although it mainly focuses on taking a break from social media when you run a business, Forbes posted an article that talks about the benefits of taking a break. At the end of the day, we aren’t going to change someone’s political views, we will probably end up more upset, and we might lose friends in the process. Sometimes it is better to agree to disagree and acknowledge that political diversity and freedom of speech is what makes America what it is today. Change never happens from attacking or belittling someone because of their views. Change happens when we come together, recognize that it is okay to not agree with someone, and work together to bring positive change to the world we live in.

The Root of Mankind’s Problems

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Religion and politics seem to be the reason behind almost every argument on Facebook, article in the news and war fought around the world. We are taught to avoid discussing these subjects in our conversations. Although we try to avoid them, they tend to be at the core of who we are and how we define ourselves.

American philosopher, John Dewey said, “the deepest urge in human nature is the desire to be important.” Many people fill this void in their lives by engaging in different religious and political circles. We have values that are instilled in us in our youth that we continue to develop throughout our lives. These values are also often shaped by our individual religious and political views.

Many people try to keep politics and religion separated, but in reality, they influence each other. The separation of church and state is something in the constitution that often causes people to be uncomfortable and defensive when they start to influence each other. As Forbes contributor, Bill Flax illustrates in this article, “our forefathers never sought to evict the church from society… Eliminating the very foundations of America’s heritage would have horrified them. On few issues was there more unanimity.”

Instead, the founding fathers of this country embraced the differences that people had. They sought to unite them with true freedom for everyone regardless of religious or political affiliation. These freedoms have started several heated debates recently because everyone feels like he or she is right. People want others to share their beliefs because it validates their beliefs and as Dewey stated above, fulfills their “desire to be important.”

As the video on this website illustrates, everyone feels like they are doing what is right and believes in the cause they are fighting for. We will only have real change in society when we start to work together and understand the views of those we disagree with.

My goal is never to change anyone’s political or religious views. I recognize that these beliefs shape each of us and make the United States a beautiful country to live in. Instead, my goal is to look at current events and offer my opinion on how both sides of the debate can find common ground when we work together. I hope that you will continue to join me and provide your input as I dive into some of the political and religious discussions that continue to happen in the US and around the world.

Introductory Post

I am Cale Bloskas. I am originally from Anton, TX which is right outside of Lubbock. I started school at ENMU in fall 2011 but ended up transferring to West Texas A&M in Spring 2013 because they provided me with more opportunities that met my interest. After a year and a half at WT, I put school and work on hold for two years to be a full-time missionary for my church in Michigan. I got back about a year ago and worked in Lubbock at an eye doctor before getting married this past July and continuing my schooling here at ENMU. I will graduate this May with a degree in Mass Communications with an emphasis in Public Relations.

As for the theme of this blog I have not decided what exactly I want to focus on. I have a huge interest in sports, politics, philosophy, leadership skills, and religion. I feel like a few of those topics tie together, so it is possible that I will be able to tie in a few different themes throughout my post.

(Photo Credit: Rochelle Divett Photography)