Recently, I have seen several posts from people that I consider dear friends stating that they are either getting off of Facebook due to all of the political posts or that they are trying to unfollow all of the news and political sites. Yes, I know that most discussions on Facebook and social media regarding politics turn into disagreements and sometimes lead to hurt feelings and, in the worst case, a loss of a real-life friend. Yes, I know that no one changes their minds by political discussions taking place on Facebook, and yes, it’s mostly an echo chamber. So if this is the case, why do so many people continue to post political messages on Facebook and to be engaged in the critical and consequential events taking place in our world, and why do others feel it’s necessary to leave the conversation altogether? And why does this even matter?
The following are my observations as someone who uses social media daily for work and helps companies understand how to develop social media strategies. It’s not scientific, but I thought it was worth taking a closer look. The question is: Why do some tune in while others tune out when it comes to politics on social media? And what can we learn from that?
Citizen Politic – Why We Tune In
Yes, Facebook is more fun with pictures of puppy dogs and videos of our kids and grandkids. And if you feel offended by a specific political post, you should undoubtedly unfollow those that offend you in some way. That’s fine to turn off your friend’s opinions and posts, just don’t turn off completely to important world affairs that impact us all. Being engaged in political discussions and what’s taking place in our schools, city government, state, and national politics isn’t something that should be optional. No, as a citizen of any society, being politically engaged AND VOTING should be a requirement of citizenship. Similar to attending jury duty, participating in public discourse should be a duty that we gladly fulfill and not shy away.
Those that become more politically active on social media have some distinct differences from those that tune out political posts. One of the main differences is that those that tune in to world events tend to become more active politically and believe that it’s their right and privilege to speak their mind and that by doing so, it leads to a greater good or is the seeds of change. Be knowledgeable. Be passionate. It’s not a partisan issue in my book, it’s a human issue, and it’s our right and duty as citizens to get involved and to fight back when necessary and whenever you feel that injustice is being perpetrated. Getting into the arena and participating in political discourse is not something new. Since the days of Greek philosophers, arguments on the role of government and human rights have been taking place. However, today, we usually don’t meet in a public square or even in person. No, our gathering place is now virtual and allows anonymity and a lack of personal interaction, which sometimes leads to personal attacks and impoliteness. These personal attacks and lack of civility in these online meeting areas are the primary reason why many of us turn off and tune out.
Frustration – Why We Tune Out
One of the most common statements that I hear from people when they start to block political posts or unfollow friends who post a lot of political commentaries is that they are frustrated. They are frustrated with the arguments they get in that have no resolution and no real answers. They are frustrated by how irrational and partisan those they are having conversations with seem to be. They are frustrated by the belief that they are powerless and can’t change or impact what’s happening around them.
For me, this frustration on social media and all the talk not accomplishing anything tangible has led me to want to make an impact in the REAL WORLD… not just on Facebook. Yes, getting into the political arena outside of Facebook and social media and opening yourself to personal attacks, and in my case, even ethics complaints, is undoubtedly a risk. However, if you want to make waves in the world, not just be a small ripple in the pond, sometimes you need to throw big rocks and make a splash. And truth be told you will often get some splashback and get wet occasionally.
How to Improve Social Media Engagements Around Politics
The best way you can improve your social engagements around politics, decrease partisanship, and increase productivity on Social Media is to remember one of the basic tenants of Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. HABIT 5: SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND, THEN TO BE UNDERSTOOD. This principle is somewhat simplistic when boiled down to the following: Listen more, talk less, and look for common understanding. Only by understanding the differing views of those you are conversing with can you come to an agreement or some type of recognition of the other’s point of view.
Stay Engaged – Follow the Lake Highlands White Rock Democrats
If you are feeling frustrated by today’s political climate, the current administration, or a host of other issues, take action! Engage with others online and in person, and speak up for what you feel is right and against what is wrong in the world. We all have specific interests we believe in and want to focus on, and there is enough work to go around and, we need your help!