I have a lot of family members on Facebook who have a strong lean toward one of the political branches. As a consequence of me not wanting my extended family, with whom we stay every Thanksgiving, to think I am a crazy person, their posts are not blocked so my feed page averages far too many political post I do not agree with than it should.
There used to be a list of topic that were not appropriate to bring up at dinner parties or the dinner table. This list contained such items as religion, bodily functions, and, as per my topic, politics. This may seem a crazy concept in current no-hold-barred society where anyone can share the most mundane or intimate details of their life withing seconds of their occurrence, but it served a reasonable function. No, this was not to keep the American people in the dark, like a columnist suggested in a piece my grandmother shared on Facebook, but rather the idea is that the kind of people who bring up controversial topics tend to have deep held beliefs on the subjects and others may have a different held belief that is just as important to them.
Now the anonymity and ease of posting on the internet brings out the crazy in lot of individuals. An innocent commercial featuring a mixed-race couple brought out the inner-racist in far more people than is comfortable in 2013. Now take a moment to think about who you have as a friend on your Facebook feed. Yet there are your good friends, but you will also find coworkers or classmates you don’t know that well, old school friends you have not talked to in years, and family members who you only added because technically you are related. Chances are when you post you expect to be reaching those who are closer to you, but you forget about the later group because you don’t read their posts and they don’t read yours. But today you decided to post that political meme that you thought was funny, and here comes one of those casual acquaintances commenting with a long angry rant. Maybe you reply and what the internet likes to call a ‘flame war’ starts up as the post starts to show on people’s Top Story feed and more individuals join the heated non-productive argument. All this could have been avoided if that old fashioned rule of no politics at the dinner table advice was followed.
So what goes wrong with a post you didn’t even put that much thought into before re-posting? A couple of things actually.
To start with, no one’s strong held beliefs have ever been changed on through and argument on the internet. Individual’s worldviews are the accumulation of a life time of community influences, likewise, it also takes a longer length of time to change their views than a few smart remarks on Facebook. And if the post you make is not even a well thought out and argumentative one, but rather a meme or political comic poking fun at the other side in the basest of ways, the individual with the opposing ideals is going to think that the poster has no idea of the real issues and is just as unintelligent as the creator of the meme seems to think those who do not share their beliefs are.
Before a post made the poster should stop and think of what they are trying to accomplish with their post. The spread of information is vital for free nations, and hearing different sides of the issues is critical for making informed decisions, but most political Facebook posts seem to have one of two intentions behind them. These may not entirely be conscious decisions, but they are there nonetheless. One is to illicit an argument with the opposition through calling them irrational, childish, and stupid amongst other insults. This course of action is itself childish and it is in poor form to assume that everyone who shares a different opinion than yourself is a moron. The other result political post create is a self congratulatory, wherein all the people in your life who share the same views as you (because people tend to form a community of those who share like worldviews) have a ‘aren’t we so smart and correct, let’s pat each other on the back’ party. This leads nowhere except to a more smug feeling of the worldview you hold being the only correct one in the history of ever.
And that ladies and gentlemen is why politics belong in debate circles where people are forced to behave like rational beings, not on Facebook where people feel compelled to share a picture of their burrito to everyone they know.
(P.S. ‘Save as Draft’ is not the ‘Publish’ button)