The advent of social media and internet blogs has delivered a virtual megaphone to anyone interested in being heard. All a person needs is access to an internet-connected device coupled with the ability to assemble words into reasonably coherent sentences, (some would argue the latter point) and his or her thoughts and opinions can be published for the world to read.
Candidates running for political office have found the emergence of the virtual megaphone to be a good news/bad news proposition. The cabability of easily and economically reaching voters is an asset to any campaign, as is the opportunity for supporters to express their opinions, and of course-- support. To a degree, these positives may be counterbalanced by the ability of detractors to join in the conversation and move it in a negative direction. But there's also a negative component to the positive voices of supporters.
All too often, bloggers who support a candidate or political position become embroiled in "debate" which quickly deteriorates into little more than an exercise in name-calling, interpersonal conflict, opponent bashing and finger pointing. The negative aspects of such blog sparring can ultimately splash words and opinions on a candidate that he or she never spoke or even considered. It can also refocus attention away from a candidate or issue and onto the sparring itself.
A recent example of blog sparring and the negative or unintended messages it can create may be found in the comments following Mike Korom's Patch blog about running for Commissioner of Gwinnett County's District 3. Both his supporters and those of opponent (and incumbent Commisisoner) Mike Beaudreau, have been trading multiple barbs, many of which have little if anything to do with the candidates themselves. And some of the comments clearly show a lack of understanding, a free hand with facts, or a dedication to creative interpretation.
Irrespective of a blog's author, or the people responding, bloggers and commenters should consider that there are always at least two sides to every issue-- especially those with a political orientation. Complicating the multi-faceted complexion of an issue is existence of numerous personal agendas that are attendant to each facet. Personal agendas aren't inherently nefarious or underhanded, but they usually add a new dimension to an issue. In the case of a candidate running for office, a commenter's private agenda may be nothing more than a desire to help whoever he or she sees as the best candidate. Conversely, the motivation to comment may arise from a desire to achieve personal financial gain, or political favoritism should a particular candidate win an election-- or to spread false or questionable information in an attempt to see a particular candidate defeated.
Whether you're reading or commenting, always consider the potential reasons behind the words. If you comment in an effort to provide support, stick to the issues, and document the reasons for your position. Hopefully, if you're supporting a candidate, you're doing so because you feel he or she is best qualified for the office being contested. In that case, you can help your cause best by citing the reasons that led to your opinion. Without question, you'll be greeted with dissenting opinions, but your response should revolve around the reasons you reached your original opinion. Debate the issues, don't spar with commenters ABOUT their opinions, personal beliefs and experiences.
If you don't care to comment, and you're reading as a means of gathering information, consider that the virtual megaphone is merely a communication tool. It should serve as a direction finder, not a final destination in the search for objective information.