Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Geeky Rant - Politics in Facebook: Political Podium or Friend Offender

The health care debacle was put to a close this week and I knew that it was going to set off a tirade of political agenda posts on Facebook both for and against the health care bill. While I work diligently to keep my political beliefs as far away from this blog as I possibly can, I do have to bring up the use of Facebook as an appropriate forum to spew your political beliefs.

Let's be 100% honest, we need more political opinion in this world like we need another TV medical drama. I remember when Obama won the presidency and I literally had pages upon pages of 'congratulations Obama' posts meshed with 'the country is going to hell' posts. Of course, mutual friends on different ends of the spectrum began to use the comments section of these status updates as their own little political debate sucking in all of us innocent bystanders. Each concurrent political maneuver followed suit.

The question, is Facebook a good forum to spread your political agenda? The answer, it all depends on what you use Facebook for and the realization that you may be either offending or neutralizing friends who may disagree with you. A few years back, our whole company was forced to endure a day of sensitivity training in the office to keep all of us in line (a complete and utter waste of time). One of the key points I remember from that, the roughly forty-five seconds I wasn't playing out an episode of 'The Simpsons' in my head, was they told us to keep our political opinions to ourselves. Actually I remember two things, that and don't comment on any of your coworkers body parts (the billboard for sensitivity training should be: Sensitivity Training - Making the Obvious Happen).

Now, in my office, it lasted all of a day before our MSNBC-ers crossed with our Fox News-ers with me keeping a very safe distance not wanting to voice an opinion either way knowing the potential consequences.

Why you shouldn't
If you use Facebook as a tool to deal with any coworkers, potential clients, or for any other business means, I would highly recommend keeping your political (as well as your religious) beliefs to yourself. It isn't to say you don't have them or don't have a right to express them; it may leave a preconceived notion in the minds of potential business associates. Especially those who run a small-business, do you really want potential clients you friend reading about your agenda? What if they have different beliefs than you do?

That is the potential of Facebook that people don't see. You get a friend request from a coworker, boss, potential client, or anyone you don't have close ties, add them, and don't think about them again. You post for your close-knit group of friends who, generally, are the reason you log onto Facebook in the first place. However, you may not remember that those others who don't know you as well are reading the same posts.

Kinda like this (link:imgur.com)...

When I teach my Intro to Internet classes, one of the things I drill into their heads is to avoid sarcasm at all costs while using the Internet because those who don't know you well may not pick up on it. The same goes with your political agenda. Voicing your political opinion may feel necessary, especially when there is a constant struggle between the parties, but you can come off like Glenn Beck or Dylan Ratigan to those that may disagree.

Why you should
Hey, Facebook is a place where everyone does have a right and freedom to voice their opinion and it is a good opportunity to voice that opinion, especially if you use Facebook strictly for personal means. And, let's face it, those who are going to scream their opinion are going to find any venue they can to voice that opinion.

However, if you are going to force feed your political agenda on your Facebook friends, please do us all a favor and be informative and accurate. I have seen so many status updates that simply state, 'Obama is ruining our nation'. Well, that doesn't do a whole lot for anyone. Below it, there will be five 'likes' from people who are happy someone is saying something negative they can jump on, an argumentative comment or two from those who just can't hold back an argument, and the rest of your friends who may disagree who simply will ignore that post (and probably the next half dozen until you say something with some sort of merit or they may even 'Hide' you and not tell you since they didn't want to hurt your feelings). Here's an idea, how about saying, 'Obama is ruining our nation because...' and actually say something that people may be able to form their own opinion about instead of listening to your expert opinion that shows no evidence of the point being made.

Also, don't regurgitate information you hear on radio and TV shows, what your dad or coworkers tell you, or what you think you heard is accurate without doing some research on your own first. Nothing entertains me more then when I read something that is blatantly false and the author's argument is that they heard it from someone else. Both sides of the political media spin facts to make their point, that doesn't mean spouting those facts to others without research is in your best interest. If you feel strongly enough about your opinion to subject all of your Facebook friends to it, at least do the research to make sure what you are spouting is accurate. One obviously false statement will leave a lasting impression with all of your friends and especially those who may disagree with you on future arguments (people love to throw, "you also said this and that was wrong so why should anyone believe you now" when making their point).

In closing, this ended up being a much longer rant than I originally anticipated, my suggestion, keep your political opinions to yourself if you use Facebook for any means other than personal means. If you are going to use Facebook as a podium to speak your political thoughts, make sure that you are informative and that you know what you are talking about. You would hate to upset you Facebook friends, they may stop sending Farkle chips or requests for Mafia Wars.

1 comment:

  1. That's valid. I agree that Facebook loves that kind of banter back and forth and even promotes it, it gives them traffic which leads to $$. I was looking at the netiquette aspect of bothering your Facebook friends with you political ranting. In the end, those who want to speak their mind will do it even while alienating some, just the nature of the beast.