Many people are annoyed by the onslaught of political posts on social media. I can’t say I blame them — because not all political posts are created equal.
It would be easy to say “Just don’t” in response to the question, Should I post something political? But the truth is, almost everything is political in nature. Politics are an extension of the values we already hold, which help shape law and public policy.
You probably heard growing up that you should never discuss politics in public. But avoiding political issues, I believe, leads to a lack of understanding on a multitude of subjects. It’s far more important to learn to engage different ideas with civility than to convince people why you’re right.
Politics go beyond your choice of presidential candidate. Every time you post something about your job, your family, your school (or your child’s school), or share a news story, guess what: you are being political! The question is, are you also being constructive?
If you’re going to write or share something of a political nature on Facebook, Twitter, or social media, these are just a few suggestions (based on personal experience):
Know your audience
If every single person on your friends list shares your views, there’s pretty much nothing you can’t get away with. But most of us aren’t so lucky — kidding. Actually, I highly recommend not being friends with only people who think like you. Growth can’t happen within echo chambers.
Use your discretion when it comes to articles and memes. If 60% of your friends will “like” it, and the rest will be mortally offended (or vice versa), ask yourself if it’s worth it. Most of the time, it probably isn’t. Send it privately to people you know will appreciate it instead.
Sarcasm and dry humor have their place. The question you should ask yourself before sharing that meme is, Is this content “punching up,” or “punching down”? Is it using biting words to make a valid point, or to tear someone apart? If it’s the latter, it’s probably not worth sharing.
Don’t post while angry
Social media is the absolute worst place to process anything, be it a personal crisis or a national one. Maybe, like me, you write best when your emotions are running high, and that’s fine. But don’t share it right away. Save it, step away for a bit, and then come back to reread it when your emotions have cooled a bit. If there’s nothing constructive in your angry post (see above), consider deleting it.
Ask questions of the other side
The people I’ve seen handle politics best on social media are those who invite diversity into the conversation. It’s always good to ask questions rather than make absolute statements: Why do you feel this way? What motivates you to support (or not support) Issue X? Yes, this may involve playing moderator for a bit, to make sure everyone who comments is playing nice with each other. This may sound like a lot of work, though good conversations can may require it.
You may not have the energy to do this, which is fine. But if you do (and take care to remind people not to use insults or slanderous language), this can go pretty well. I’ve seen it happen on a few friends’ profiles, and even made new friends from jumping into these discussions.
Use words responsibly
People may say that any political talk is a recipe for disaster, but I strongly disagree. As a writer, I believe words have power. From the very first caveman scrawls, the written word has planted seeds in people’s thinking. You may never convince people to join your cause, but that’s not always the point. You can use words to empower the people who already share your passion, and that’s important, too.
We all know how easy it is for political discussions to go sour, but if you have positive experiences with posting about politics on social media, please share in the comments!