Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Energy of Social Media Now (Communication Lessons From Election 2016)

Last night, possibly like you, all I could think about was the election.

I came home and put the television on. "CNN," said my husband, "they have the best voting coverage" to which I said "CNN is biased, no way" and he said "no, for this they're doing it good."

There was Wolf Blitzer and there was John King and lo and behold my husband was right, Wolf kept saying "it's a nail-biter" and King did his thing with the maps, almost like the guy who's calling the horse race, squeezing the Virginia map open and closed and then Florida.

Oh my goodness, Florida.

"Election alert!" said the screen and I ran back into the living room from the kitchen where I was trying to make dinner and not burn it because I was too busy watching for results.

"And Trump is ahead in Florida," said Blitzer.

I almost couldn't believe my eyes. WTF was this! Trump was ahead in Florida, he was ahead in Virginia, TIM KAINE's home state, it looked to me like he was CRUSHING IT.


Then I looked down at the bottom of the screen.

"Only 15% of the votes are in. S--t!"

So the whole family stood there, then sat down, jumping up and pacing, watching all the alerts and projections and updates, completely freaking out, TRYING to count the difference in votes quickly before each screen disappeared.

Suddenly, I'm guessing around 10:00 p.m. -- which was really 11:00 since I haven't adjusted to the time change -- it looked like Florida was stuck at 95%, and they were waiting for Broward County.

The whole time I'd been "watching" along with the TV using Google's election map, and the New York Times' projections (which suddenly seemed strangely fair), and Breitbart.

"You're wasting your time," said my daughter. "It's all on the TV."

"Yeah, I guess," I said and at some point I put the laptop down. But when the numbers got stuck on Broward County I got out my iPhone.

As I had every night, I went to Twitter to find out what was going on, and typed in "Broward."

Sure enough, a discussion of potential voter fraud.

"SCREW THIS" I said and got in to the mix, again as I had been doing every night. "BRENDA SNIPES GET THOSE BALLOTS IN," I typed furiously. "STOP HOLDING UP THE WORKS." "WE KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON."

Yes, I had learned my lesson well, when it came to this election. In order to make anything happen of a rational nature, YOU HAD TO GO ON TWITTER AND ACT TOTALLY INSANE.




The vociferous interchange between Trump supporters continued.

Someone chimed in, "The votes are in and there's no way she can win it now. There's too many locked up already."

Then there was a ding on my Facebook Messenger. Look - it was my friend from Florida - exciting!

"He's winning!"

"I know! OMG! But what the heck is with Broward?"

"It's fine, it's fine, he's got it!"

Up on Facebook my friends were posting furiously, from the Left and from the Right. I enjoy reading my friends' posts if they agree with me, of course. But in this election it was somehow viscerally painful to read any post from anyone who went along with her.

"We have work tomorrow," said my husband. "We have to go to sleep."

"You're not going to stay up and watch anymore?" said my daughter.

"I can't, I have to go in," I said to her.

"You know you're going to be up anyway," said my daughter. "I know you're going to be clutching that iPhone all night."

Admittedly she knows me pretty well. "True."

I went to sleep, but only till midnight. I woke up and of course checked my iPhone. Google had the best, most quickly updated live results of all.

Suddenly I was fully awake. "244! 244! 244! OH MY G-D!"

Another friend I have, who I only know from Facebook, had messaged me. "I am praying nonstop, day and night," she wrote.

Thumbs-up emoticons were exchanged.

"Me too," I said. "OMG please let this be real."

I stayed up after that till 2:13 in the morning, when the electoral vote showed clearly that Trump was the winner.

He won, he won, he won, he won - my brain was over the moon. I absolutely couldn't believe it.

On Facebook my left-wing friends were devastated, and furious. And I made the mistake of getting into it with some of them. "It will be great, you'll see."

Their reaction was less than stellar. "Stop gloating, asshole."

I posted a few nasty gloating photos on my Facebook of course, to which my cousin wrote: "Language, please!" in Hungarian and I decided to take that down.

At the end it seemed she wouldn't concede, and she sent John Podesta out to speak for her. Of course Twitter went on fire with hashtags about #spiritcooking.

The mainstream media said, come on Hillary, concede the race already and I looked at my Twitter feed, shocked that they were saying this because I was so used to the fighting.

About 2:30 a.m., the word came out that she indeed had called the President-elect and conceded. The word came out on Twitter that he was about to give his victory speech.

I wanted to stay up and watch and listen, but that would have meant pulling headphones from my bag, and that would have been loud and I was totally and fully exhausted.

This election has taught me more about persuasion in the past four months than all of my years of professional experience combined.

I remain exhausted now, and I can still feel the pain and the urgency. This election was in my mind a quiet but real civil war, a referendum on something much more than ideology or a policy point of view.

And without getting into a debate of substance, I just want to mark the indelible impression it has left on my brain, on my heart and I think on my actual physical body, as it feels like I have aged a few years in the space of maybe 16 weeks or less.

May G-d help us as a Nation to heal the deep wounds this election obviously brought up. May we learn some important things about the worries of our neighbors. And as professionals may we use the lessons learned to advance the discipline of communication, not to manipulate each other but to better engage with the very real concerns that are on each other's minds.


All opinions my own. Photo by Lew (tomswift) Holzman via Flickr (Creative Commons).