With six weeks to go ’til the election, the political talk on social media is getting more and more intense. But if you’re like a lot of us, you’re doing what you can to avoid it.
“The purpose of Facebook is supposed to be fun and enjoyment between friends and family,” goes the description on a group called Keep politics of Facebook. “Why invite the controversy and discord?”
One out of five Facebook users have blocked or unfriended people over political posts, according to the Pew Internet and American Life project. And enough people cringe at political content to earn an app that promises to filter it out of your Facebook news feed nearly 70,000 likes on the site.
And yet, there are big issues in this election and sharing our opinions — especially online — can make a big impact, as I described in my Sunday column.
“I do think you have a responsibility to stand up for what you believe in, especially when it’s challenged,” said Maya Enista-Smith, CEO of the nonpartisan Mobilize.org.
So what are our reasons for sitting it out? Here are a few, culled from some of your responses to the question on Facebook:
1. To preserve friendships
Kurt Clark: “I am afraid of awkward instances where someone walks away from a friendship after they find out how I think. Sadly it has happened a couple times. To some, tolerance = support or weakness. Not true. I may disagree with some political views of my friends, but it doesn’t mean I want them out of my life.”
Kristin Jacobsen: “I have learned that not everyone is as politically minded as me, and some of my relationships, especially those that are not based at all on politics, are more important to me.”
Ann Osborne Peavey: “I don’t want to offend anyone if my beliefs politically are completely different than others’.”
2. To stay above the fray
Eugene Hsu: “If you look at the current social media posts, it’s all about startling headlines and making fun of the other side rather than engaging in a civil discussion. Unlike a dinner table from which you can be excused, Facebook is a giant social media swimming pool where Donkeys piss on one end and Elephants piss on the other end. Do you really want to swim in that?”
Daudi Msseemmaa: “I’m not ashamed of my political viewpoint, but I am not proud of how I have reacted to seeing what some of my friends on the other side post about our president. So I keep the political stuff to a minimum, and as positive as possible.”
3. To avoid oversimplifying
Frank Catalano: “I find getting into the reasons are too nuanced for either 140 characters or status updates and don’t allow for the real-time back-and-forth discussion, with full context, that’s critical to making sure one understands a position, or has one’s position understood.”
4. To play it safe
Maya Enista-Smith: “In a world where there’s no takebacks, I don’t judge people for not putting their thoughts out there.”
These reasons are good, but depending on how you look at it, they may not be good enough. As Seattle entrepreneur Jonathan Sposato put it, “Taking a position and expressing a point of view, if strong and specific, is not supposed to be comfortable.”
Do you hide your politics online? Why do you hold back?