Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Politics and Facebook: Yea or Nay?

I don't think Facebook and politics mix, but I'm wondering if I'm in the right here. Should Facebook just be for vacation humble-bragging, filtered selfies, and an annoying barrage of photos of your kid (or dogs, in my case)? Light-hearted and non-argumentative? My automatic answer is "Yes!" but every time a controversial tragedy occurs, or during pretty much any election year, I'm forced to re-think my position. And - good grief - this year's election is a controversial tragedy, so Facebook is just spilling over with obnoxious posts. 

My knee-jerk reaction is to hide people and I do stand by that. I want to like the people who are my Facebook friends because they're either my family or my actual real-life friends. I don't want their terrible political opinions to cloud my judgement of them. But before I triumphantly click Unfollow and rub my hands together in victory,* I usually do a bit of grumbling to myself about how I'm hiding them because Facebook is no place for politics or something in that vein. But then I thought tonight, Why is Facebook no place for politics?

If I had to argue in favor of politics on Facebook, I would say this: political beliefs are really important to a lot of people and are in many ways defining of self. So if we want to be more in tune and in touch with the people around us, we should understand and accept them as a whole person, including their political leanings. 

Sometimes passion overtakes good judgment too. I have first-hand experience with this. Occasionally, people post stuff that's political and I either really agree or strongly disagree and I lose all control of my faculties and I comment as though my body is controlled by an other-worldly force ;-) I have even made political posts in my eight-plus years on Facebook.  

Because what we label as political in nature is often fundamental to our belief system, like the way someone feels about abortion or gay rights. We make these things abstract by calling them political topics, but they're not abstract. They affect actual lives. If a Facebook friend posts something pro-life or LGBTQ-supportive or Black Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter, it may be because they feel a deep moral connection to the message behind the post. If you don't like it, you can always hide them, so why shouldn't they post it?

Well, I can also readily argue that too. At the elderly age of 34, I am fast becoming old school on the topics of politics, religion, and money: I really think there is almost no situation in which it's appropriate to discuss any of them in mixed company, as they say.**  I didn't always feel this way, and used to talk ad nauseum about politics, but two things have changed. The first is that I see almost nothing as black and white anymore because age gives you perspective (or at least it should). The second is that I loathe the idea of making people uncomfortable*** and in mixed company, there is little chance that you will encounter complete homogeneity of beliefs.

Plus, if you think abortion should be legal because overpopulation and child neglect are huge problems, it doesn't trump the opinion of the person who thinks it's murder, you know? And their opinion doesn't trump yours. Both beliefs are valid. The only people who need to hear you bitch about it are your representatives in Congress (and SCOTUS - so, right now, that means the voting booth in November).  

I guess that's what it comes down to for me: what do political oversharers on Facebook think they're going to accomplish? To an extent, some or all of them may feel like they'll change hearts and minds. I guess that's a noble goal and I totally do it when I post animal rescue-related stuff, so I get it. But I also think there's an element of something more, something I can't put my finger on. A moral superiority? A desire to align yourself publicly with a large, popular movement? A desire to spite people that are part of a movement you don't like? Intellectual one-upmanship? I don't believe those are good reasons. 

Ultimately, I think my personal line is: respectfully and judiciously posting about politics is ok (ish) and I'll probably keep you in my feed.**** Ranting, rudeness, incendiary comments, and an excessive number of political posts are not ok and will get you blocked by moi.

And for the love of all that is good in the world, use words that are actually words***** and please edit everything you post on social media, be it political or not, for grammar and spelling. Please. 

*Wait, why am I even on Facebook?

**I would define mixed company as a big group containing people of various backgrounds and reasons for being there. Like, a church service may contain people of various backgrounds, but they're all there for the same reason and it would be weird to omit discussion of religion from a church service. Your cousin's kid's birthday party? No one came to listen to you blather on about the source of the national deficit. 

***Sometimes it's part of life and you just have to, but your desperate need to rant about who should be able to use what bathroom probably isn't one of those times. 

****Unless you consistently use poor grammar or complain a lot or put up one of those statuses where you vaguely allude to a situation, obviously inviting 
inquiry/jealousy/sympathy, and then refuse to answer when people ask you about it. 

*****"ur" is not an English word and means neither you are nor your

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