In defense of posting about politics on social media

catniss2“I’m so sick of reading about politics! I want to go back to the days when people posted pictures of their babies and what they ate.”

I’ve seen this sentiment posted on Facebook quite regularly ever since the election – you probably have, too. On the one hand, I get it: politics are complex in general, but this current political climate is especially depressing. Every day I wake up and read the news, I am increasingly convinced we have all been teleported into the plot of a dystopian novel. There are few places one can go nowadays and be completely isolated from news of what is happening in our world. Social media, for many, is a safe space: a place to detox from ”real life” and see what your friends are up to. A place to unwind.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with restricting your feed to only include updates about babies and cute cat videos. What I find problematic is the automatic silencing of those who share anything political, no matter how inclusive or articulately worded the post might be. Frustration at seeing the same thing over and over is understandable, but over time, “Why can’t we all just focus on happy things?” is not so much an exasperated request as it is a micro-aggression: a silencing tactic.

This attitude has potential to become oppressive because it attempts to shame those who feel that certain issues are just too important to keep to themselves.

I am one of those people: I don’t know how to stay silent about issues that are a direct threat to human rights. I am grateful for the advent of social media – Facebook, Twitter, personal blogs – because, as an introvert, these discussions in real-time don’t always work out well for me. I don’t like calling attention to myself if I don’t have to. I certainly don’t like face-to-face conflict. As a writer, I am far more intelligent and thoughtful on paper (or a screen) than I am verbally. My social media platform is a gift that allows me to use my voice for what I believe is a cause for good, even if the same five people are the only ones who read what I have to say.

I have a sweatshirt with a quote from Desmond Tutu on it: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you are choosing the side of the oppressor.” My political posts (I swear on my life, I try to write in a way that invites discussion rather than arguments, and I’m trying to avoid posting out of pure anger) are my own brand of activism. I highly doubt that anyone’s mind has been changed about anything solely from a Facebook post, but words have the power to plant seeds no matter what form they take. That is all I aim to do.

At the risk of stereotyping, I have to comment on a pattern I’ve noticed, regarding the authors of the “Why can’t we just stick to cute puppies?” posts: more often than not, they tend to be white. They are, as far as I’m aware, middle class or above, with decent jobs and private healthcare. They do not belong to any minority groups. In other words, they are people who have nothing to fear from a Trump administration. The frightening changes that are taking place will have little to no effect on them personally.

Not everyone is lucky enough to be in that position. The posts I see that deal thoughtfully with politics, that express fear and ask questions, come from people with so-called “pre-existing conditions” that will no longer be treated if the ACA is repealed. They come from friends in same-sex marriages who fear being kicked out of their housing, having their relationships annulled, or losing custody of children who are not biologically theirs. They come from friends who are black and fear the consequences of having a neo nazi in Trump’s cabinet.

By all means, if you prefer your Facebook to be politics-free, that is your right. I would encourage you, however, to consider why it is that you don’t want to see such posts. Do they make you depressed and increase your anxiety? Totally understandable. Are you sick of seeing posts denigrating all Trump voters as being evil and stupid? By all means, hide those (I would too). But if your reasons have more to do with exasperation that so many people are likening themselves to Chicken Little, clucking on and on about how the sky is falling, then perhaps a bit of empathy is in order.

If nothing else, the “unfollow” button is always an option: a kinder alternative to “un-friending.”

*

Like this post? Check out Confessions of a Jew-ish Skeptic, now available on Amazon.

Stay in touch via Facebook and Twitter or subscribe to my monthly newsletter.

Advertisements

9 thoughts on “In defense of posting about politics on social media

  1. Robert rees says:

    I entirely agree with you that it is acceptable to post political views. As a discussion topic, they represent abut the most important subject there is! however there are some big caveats. First, I find it very tiresome when a facebook group on a specific subject gets taken over by a political argument, especially when the politics is shoehorned in crudely. Humour sites are particularly bad, just becoming outlets for traded abuse. Second, all pojnts must be made in the spirit of rationality and politeness. I can’t stand those whose are losing an argument and resort to name calling. Finally, people should by and large be courageous enough not to hide behind pseudonyms if they want to go around discussing points of view.

    Like

  2. Larry says:

    I agree with all but the last sentence. In my view the un-follow option is saying I won’t listen to you but you have to listen to me. That is a one way conversation. At the very least if someone is going to un-follow someone I think they take the responsibility and should have the courage to tell them that is what they are doing.

    Like

  3. hannah out loud says:

    Hi Beth

    I would say the defence of speaking up about politics is that it is a right and an obligation to do so, the ability to speak freely and to vote wasn’t given on a plate, even after the wars starting in 1642, 1776 , 1861 and 1914 .

    In Britain and America a hundred years ago no women could vote and in America black people had little civil liberties , had to accept apartheid segregation and ultimately were denied the right to vote by varying laws. In Britain’s case it wasn’t until the 1820s Roman Catholics had any rights , Jews were fully emancipated in 1850 and 1872 , neither could most men vote as the franchise was restricted via property ownership or rental qualifications.

    We’re both Jews by birth and we should remember how our ancestors lived with little rights or protections , whether in the Russian or Ottoman Empires. In the US and that UK we were able to obtain freedom and live without pogroms and now have full secular civil rights, even if antisemitism hasn’t gone away and in some ways is shockingly stronger than ever .

    Therefore to keep these rights in tact and to fulfil our obligations as citizens we should be politically aware , if not active, in politics . Even if that’s restricted to social media or voting . But it is important to be engaged. Whether you are mainstream right or left, it’s important to be part of the conversation. Otherwise people will have it for you and your voice won’t be heard.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Bethany Hanna says:

    I liked what you had to say here. I am, however, a Trump voter. I wanted to vote for a few other candidates before him, but it got narrowed down to two and there I was.

    I am not evil nor unintelligent. I come at the issues of our nation from a different point of view than someone who voted for a different party than I did. Because my point-of-view is different does not mean I have feelings of hatred towards those with different opinions. The exasperation I get from all the politics on social media is from the Hate Mail, if you will. Both sides, mine and the other one, have very few if any kind words to say about each other. Not like we are to get on the computer for a group hug when we disagree. Humanity, as some call it, has gone very downhill with the arguments and comments made in such negativity.

    For example, and then I will end my comment: I believe the way I do about the current issues because I genuinely want the best for the entire nation, including the “other side.” I have a lot of empathy and care very much for the well being of everyone involved. To say I don’t because I disagree with the way to go about things is incorrect. The one specific I will illustrate is Abortion. I am Pro-Life not because I don’t want women to have choices but because I don’t want babies to die and their mothers to have to live with that for the rest of their life. I was faced with this “choice” twice now. Both times I chose life and thank God for every single day I get with my two beautiful girls; one of them having a birth defect called Spina Bifida and the other I had very young and in a difficult time in my life.

    Like

  5. Kate says:

    I have to admit I mainly joined FB to see posts about the new babies in our extended family. Cute puppy photos can be awesome as well.

    I don’t mind political discussion on FB but I feel as if it sometimes comes from a point where the person posting the meme, comment isn’t really looking for a dialogue. For the most part I stay out of them, but I am more likely to comment on local politics.

    Everyone comes from a different place of hardship, and I think we sometimes minimize the hardships of others to get our point across.

    For instance, this week I’ll find out if yet another male in our extended family has prostate cancer. Prostate cancer certainly could get more coverage in the news, and more funding.

    My son is a teen. In a few years he and all of his male peers will register for the draft. If you would ask my father, who is deceased, he’d say don’t believe anyone about what your potential chances of being drafted are. But we hear little about the draft when we talk about equality.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s