How to Talk Politics on Facebook (And Live to Tell the Tale)
Is it possible? Hardly. With election day quickly approaching, Betsy and Sal learn the hard way what happens when you share your political leanings with your 'friends' on social media. Especially when it's about Todd Akin.
Ah the joys of Facebook, a place where we can share snapshots of our family members and ourselves in compromising positions with 657 of our closest friends from high school, college, towns we grew up in and the places we work.
Included in that elite group are a few hangers on who have been absentmindedly accepted into our clubs either in moments of weakness, forgetfulness or just plain whateverness. Someone wants to friend us? But, who is this person? Who cares? We want friends. Hit “Accept!”
It’s a tricky time to have friends, both in real life and online, and it gets even trickier every four years as Election Day nears. This season, more than any we remember, presidential politics feels personal because of the proliferation of online postings, sharings, likings, disliking and out-and-out feuding.
For those who embraced Facebook long ago, this may not be a new phenomenon. But for late converts, it’s been a shocking revelation to log on and realize that many of the people who share in our lives do not in any way share our views. And both sides are eager to post.
The pros of Facebook are clear. Without it, we never would have seen a post from a husband’s best friend’s wife with an instructional Chinese video showing how to perfectly separate the yolk from the white of an egg by using an empty plastic water bottle. That video is two minutes of well-spent time by anyone’s standards.
Without Facebook, we would never have known that Sprinkes Cupcakes now has a cupcake ATM. This is important stuff. Without Facebook, we would never know when it’s our birthday. We need Facebook.
But now that Election Day is just around the corner, we are beginning to have a big problem with Facebook and our 657 friends.
To give credit where credit is due, Todd Akin started it. Or rather, his remarks and the fall-out from those remarks started it for us. Pundit after pundit reviewed and dissected his remarks, and he himself recanted a bit, admitting he “misspoke.” But his initial statement — “If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down” — underscores a willful adherence to imaginary science conjured purposely to support specific platforms, which in this case is an aggressive segment of the anti-choice movement.
Remember, Todd Akin is a member of the House Committee of Science, Space, and Technology … not the House Science-Fiction Committee.
Left-leaning gals that we are, it hardly seemed far-fetched to post Charles Blow’s Aug. 22 editorial entitled “All the Single Ladies,” which starts with the following assertion: “The noxious 'legitimate rape' comment by Todd Akin, Missouri congressman and Senate candidate, has me once again pondering a simple question: Why do any women vote Republican?”
Suffice it to say we needed a bomb shelter to protect us from the fall-out of posting that article.
Some friends engaged in civil on-line debate. They countered with differing points of view, factual information, and were respectful of our stances but firmly resolved to stick to theirs. That was fine.
Others, however, responded with venom and vitriol. No matter how large the font, how bold the type, or how many words are in all caps, the official Republican platform calls for a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion with no explicit exceptions for cases of rape or incest.
It turns out this is a divisive issue, even among “friends.”
Now, what do we do with all of the people chatting with us via Facebook? Are we friends? Are we able to engage in reasonable discourse? When is it okay to post a strong political point of view, and when does stating a stance cross the line into an area of virtual combat?
Here are a few Facebook Face-Offs we try to live by. When a friend posts something we don’t like, we choose from the following options:
- We hide it from our timeline
- We reply privately and engage in a civilized discussion
- We post a witty remark knowing both parties respectfully agree to disagree
And in the worst-case scenario, maybe it turns out we really only have 656 friends. We’re okay with that.