I am a perpetual floating voter. I have political opinions, but no strong party loyalty – and I’ve voted for all the main parties and some minority ones in the elections I’ve participated in over the last couple of decades. There’s a simple reason for this: I believe that the cut and thrust of discussion is at the root of politics, and the more tribal you are in your politics, the more likely you are to say “Party X must never get into power again”, the less likely you are to engage in discussion in a thoughtful, intelligent way.
And this is a rather long-winded way of explaining why I’ve largely abandoned Twitter during this election campaign. Whereas most of my reading pre-election came from links on Twitter, now most of my stream seems to be filled with tribal posturing and links to “amusing” photoshopping of election posters. It seems to me, well, petty. And not a little childish.
Have I retreated to newspapers? No. The depressing predictability of the tribal voices on our national press has lead to precious little that inspires, informs or educates in them. Instead, I’ve found myself actively seeking out more intelligent and cogent debate on blogs (including, admittedly, some from national newspaper journalists) and sites specifically dedicated to political discussion like [Talk Issues](http://www.demsoc.org/talkissues/). This is one of those times when the 140 character limit of Twitter works against it. While it’s great for sloganeering and creating a comfortable little echo chamber of like political minds, it leaves not room for detail, for debate, for politics. Now some of these blogs are tribal. They are from people of a particular political stripe – but they tend to wear their allegiance openly, and are prepared to engage in genuine debate with people who hold different views to them. And that’s the critical difference – genuine engagement in discourse. Frankly, I find it depressing watching social media advocates who normally shout about the conversation to the high heavens suddenly becoming slogan-spouting machines, just because there’s an election on.
And so, for now, you’ll find me scanning Twitter, but living in my RSS reader and amongst the blogs, where I can actually *learn *something.