For millions of us, myself included, Facebook has become a vital means of keeping up with friends old and new, of remembering birthdays and sharing the highs and lows of our lives. And yet, for many of us, one of the downsides of all of that sharing is that we sometimes encounter (to our dismay) very strong political opinions from friends both far and distant that differ dramatically from our own.
Encountering opposing perspectives is certainly a part of life, and indeed, one of the things that makes human interaction so interesting. Further, the deftness with which we handle these differences is the mark of how mannerly we are. And yet, the ability to size up a conversation in an instant and to determine whether it's worth engaging in--or deflecting--is made particularly difficult when the discussion is happening exclusively online, where everyone from super-close friends to random acquaintances are thrown into the mix. A status update that contains a political barb will sometimes elicit a torrent of comments. And in turn, those comments draw their own comments...and so on. All you intended was to weigh in on the latest gaffe by Romney or Obama, and before long, World War III is breaking out on your Facebook wall.
I don't believe we should avoid politics on Facebook entirely. Let's face it....Facebook is one of the primary means we share and discover news and information. But when you do post, you must be mindful to do so in a way that's sensitive and respectful of the beliefs of others. (Particularly if you know you have Facebook friends of various political leanings.) You never want to appear to be an extremist.
And be wary of using Facebook solely as a platform for promulgating your world view. In other words, don't be a one-trick pony. (Or donkey or elephant, as it were.) Do that often enough, and you'll watch your Friends number drop quicker than a candidate's Quinnipiac free fall. More concerning is that these same friends may begin shunning you in real life, too.
What do you think? Do political posts on Facebook bother you? Or are they part and parcel of the social-media experience? I'd love to hear from you.