GovSight is a non-profit technology and news company which was formed in 2019. In our weekly GovSight Diaries series, we share the stories of our challenges and successes in hopes that others can learn from our accomplishments and struggles.
Growing up in a Cuban-American household, discussions on politics and government were almost always analyzed through the lens of capitalism versus communism; the weight of my family’s hardships when immigrating to the United States made me wary of questioning their opinions or beliefs.
My family’s presence in the United States is inherently political. And wanting to separate any fact from opinion I had grown up with, I developed an interest in American politics — to understand why my grandparent’s, along with generations of other immigrants, saw America as a beacon of opportunity.
My public school system shepherded this interest into a passion — it also helped that I grew up in Fort Lee, New Jersey, which was used as a battle fort during the Revolutionary War. Don’t get me wrong: I wouldn’t have wanted to grown up anywhere else, but you can imagine how annoying it was being told at nine years old that you’re taking a historical field trip only to be taken five minutes(!) from your elementary school to the local park because George Washington kicked some stones with a few troops there while fighting British oppression way back when. (Clearly, I’m still bitter.)
I used social media as an escape
Growing up in a renaissance of technological breakthroughs and social media helped me understand politics in a way I never could before. Wielding the internet and a Twitter account, exposure to the intersectionality of politics and societal issues was unavoidable — and I embraced it with no hesitation, but it was never central to my online presence.
I used social media mostly as pseudo form of escapism from any harsh reality I convinced myself I faced at the time. Using the internet as a coping mechanism sounds backwards today, but back then, I was pleasantly occupied running a One Direction fan account.
But then Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president in my final years of high school. And the internet imploded.
2016 turned social media into a political weapon
What do you do when the things you want to avoid in real life become political talking points on the one forum you used for fun? My Twitter feed of boybands and Tumblr trends turned into local politicians, social activists, and political news outlets with the latest on the 2016 presidential election.
That’s also when I realized the extent of the privileged bubble I had lived in all my life. My grandparents left the only home they ever knew to flee oppression; my parents worked tirelessly to solidify my family’s economic survival in this country. I have not had to bear the weight of either of these burdens — and as a fair-skinned Latina, I refuse to compare or equate my personal struggles to those of family members or peers who have had to work harder just because their skin tone is used to determine their value in American society.
Everything I had grown up with collided with my online presence, leaving me to figure out what was right, what was wrong, and what was just plain noise.
Separating truth from lies online
Social media is … tricky, to say the least. Realizing the immense influential power in which social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have shook the core of what I understood as political communications and reporting.
Social media can make the world feel small and scary; I can’t blame those who choose not to have any online presence. The insurmountable amount of information and exchange of ideas is overwhelming, but it’s important to understand that the internet can give a voice to the otherwise voiceless and shine a light on issues that would otherwise be ignored by major outlets.
Is every piece of information online true or valuable? Absolutely not: We learned this firsthand with the Russian bots and propaganda that interrupted the last presidential election.
Weeding out truth from fake news is how I spent most of my college career studying journalism. Leading social media at a civic-technology company reinforced my political reporting skills more than any classroom could. And sniffing out truth from fact in any story — from boyband gossip to White House drama — comes down to research, trust in the revered, and dedication to the truth.
As social media director, I’ve been able to combine my passion for U.S. government with the social-media skills I’ve continued to craft inadvertently since my first A.O.L. account. And I’m honored to have the opportunity to share that with you.
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