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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, 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.

Peggy L. September 08, 2012 at 05:04 PM
About that egg yolk and plastic bottle...I worry that you need that special Wahaha water bottle with just the right sized opening and bottle flexibility. Do they sell those bottles anywhere but in China? Has anyone tried the yolk thing (amazing, really) with a different water bottle?! In fact, has anyone actually tried this or just passed the video around?! I'm with you on the Todd Akin thing.
Guido McGinty September 08, 2012 at 11:25 PM
So you don't have any friends that abstain from the War Party factions? There are only two sides? No wonder we're broke. All the Baby Boomers voted incessantly for thieving cowards over the last 45 years. Remember kids: a vote for Team Red or Team Blue is a vote for corruption, theft and fiscal ruin. Don't repeat the mistakes of your parents.
Tim Froehlig September 09, 2012 at 05:43 AM
Okay, this is the problem with America. Someone makes a comment like "why do any women vote Republican," and groups all people into one category because of the beliefs or actions of others. What ever happened to people thinking for themselves and voting on candidates based on what they do right or wrong rather than because of a party they belong to? I've voted for tons of people from each party in my life, and other lesser-known parties even. But not once have I ever made my decision based on what part they were a part of. Not all Republicans, believe it or not, share that same stance on abortion. It's no different than the Demcratic party disagreeing on their own platform last week. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, surely, but grouping every member of a political party into one is as much a part of this country's problem as these issues are sometimes. An estimated 30 percent of Republicans disagree with the party's platform themselves, and are pro-choice. Additionally, 87 percent of U.S. counties do not even allow them to take place.to begin with. Source: http://abortion.procon.org/ I'm not trying to engage in an arguement, I respect your rights...but merely presenting the fact that I think people should be much more careful and start looking at each individual candidate's beliefs rather than grouping them all. That's how people get into office that shouldn't be there to begin with.

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