BY ESTHER J. CEPEDA, Washington Post Writers Group
CHICAGO -- By pure luck, I followed Advertising Age managing editor Ken Wheaton's advice to actually pay attention during last week's presidential debates.
In a recent column -- "Want to Get the Most Out of the Debates? Turn Off Social Media" -- Wheaton noted that being on your networks while trying to make sense of the candidates' remarks invited massive distraction.
"You are doing one of three things," wrote Wheaton, "(a) looking for comments that you agree with to shore up your position, (b) looking for comments you disagree with in order to fight, (c) snarking on one or both sides because you're a funny guy."
As it turns out, I watched the town hall debate last week in a place without either a cellular signal or Wi-Fi and thus was relieved of the running ticker of my Twitter feed telling me who was "winning" or "losing" in something close to real time.
Indeed, Wheaton's counsel -- "It's much easier to listen to the candidates if you're, you know, listening to the candidates" -- rang true.
The experience was so satisfying that for the rest of the week, with the exception of few short check-ins, I stayed away from Twitter and Facebook. I could later confirm I had done the right thing because I was able to avoid the snark and stupidity of the "Binder-gate" frenzy and then, on Friday, "Romnesia" fever.
However, just when I was getting ready to condemn social media for its coarse ways, along comes actress Eva Longoria to restore my faith in our ability to talk politics positively on these mass communications platforms.
The "Desperate Housewives" star has sometimes acted childishly in her role as Obama campaign co-chair. During the Democratic National Convention in early September, her most headline-grabbing contribution to the election conversation was an interview with CNN's Piers Morgan in which he took off one of Longoria's heels to show off their six-inch, red-soled glory to the cameras.
Then after the vice presidential debates, Longoria retweeted another actress's comment implying that Paul Ryan had been prison-style raped by Joe Biden. Most recently, she authored a tweet saying that women and minorities who might cast ballots for Mitt Romney would "have to be stupid to vote for such a racist/misogynistic" vulgarity-in-reference-to-a-woman's-private-part.
But alas, Longoria finally injected some class into her campaigning. On Sunday, she said she was sorry to Cafe con Leche Republicans, an immigrant-friendly group that had demanded an apology from both the actress and the Obama for America campaign. The gist of the Cafe con Leche Republicans’ news release was that not only was Longoria remorseful, but she agreed to work with the activists toward shared goals on immigration reform.
Amazing stuff, huh? We don’t have to be nasty. In these next two weeks, let's all aspire to more election-related civility in person and online. If our preferred candidates are so worthy of our support, we need not resort to childish name-calling to prove it to others.
Esther J. Cepeda's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org