Facebook Friends . . . and Foes?

Politics and Facebook- Do They Mix-
It’s still Education Week, but I’m taking a short detour to ask what you think about discussing controversial topics with your friends on Facebook.  Specifically, since it’s a social site, is Facebook kind of like a virtual living room, where discussions of politics and religion should be off limits unless you know the people really really well or at least know they are likely to agree with you?  Or is it like newsgoups used to be, a great place to say whatever comes into your head and the devil take the consequences?  Or is it perhaps some kind of hybrid, since you know most of the people in real life, albeit not always very well?
I have found myself feeling compelled to post or comment on several comments of a political nature recently:  Health Care Reform, taxes, and the National Day of Prayer.  Part of it has to do with the desire to educate and to inform.  When people post the equivalent of email forwards without checking Snopes first, it infuriates me.  It just does.  It’s like gossip, only worse, because it’s so easy to check.  I never forward an email without checking, even when I would love to believe what it says.  And I usually go one step further and inform the person who sent it (sometimes even all the people they forwarded it to–I’ve been thanked by several people for that!) when they have sent out false information.  When I see a suspicious posting on Facebook, I check it on Snopes and then post the link.
I’m going to write a long post on the topic of Health Care Reform one day, I really am.  I hesitated to wade into the messy debate waging on Facebook, especially since a large portion of my Friend List would no doubt disagree with my sentiments on the issue.  But on the day after the Affordable Care Act passed, I did post:  “Leslie Hunley Sholly is looking forward to being insured.”   Because I am.  And because I think it’s important to put a face on some of the people who don’t have insurance in this country, since it’s so very easy to think bad things about people when you don’t know anything about them or their circumstances.
Which leads me to taxes.  Probably I just should have been quiet when a friend made a comment about the percentage of people in this country who don’t pay taxes.  But I did want to point out that here in Tennessee the very people who are not required to pay federal income tax have to pay a more burdensome percentage of their income in state and local sales taxes on everything they buy.  And then when the topic turned to people getting money back in the form of credits even when they had no tax liability, I felt that it was dishonest not to own up to having received money back myself this year–and being quite pleased about it!
What do you think?  Do you ever make “political” comments on Facebook?  If others do so, do you comment on them?  If people do make such comments, should they be upset when their “friends” disagree?  Should I just shut up and play Farmville?  Tell me in the comments!
A version of this post was featured on BlogHer!  Check it out below.
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  1. Wendy Woolford says:

    Hi Leslie,
    I just wanted you to know that I have pondered the very same question you posed above. And I am guilty of posting political comments on more than one occasion. I have also (very occasionally) commented on other people’s political comments — usually only when I agree w/ them, but sparingly in instances when I do not, but I try to do it in a respectful fashion and I hope my tone conveys that although I may not share their opinion, I certainly respect the fact that they are as entitled to their views as I am to my own.
    It is really interesting to see how many people in my fb friends list have political views that differ from my own. I confess, there have been a few posts that have given me pause — like I am taken aback that someone I am “friends” w/ on fb would be that far away from where I sit on the political spectrum, but at the end of the day, I think that fb should be a safe space to say whatever you want to put out there so long as you’re prepared for the consequences that may follow and provided you don’t say intentionally and/or specifically offensive things. I guess we all have the option to de-friend or hide someone if we don’t care to see any more of the material that they post.
    At the end of the day I like to have the opportunity to get a read from my fb community as to how people feel about various issues. I appreciate the opportunity to learn and the give and take of respectful debate. Of course, since you are one of my fb friends that I recently debated w/ (re: the issue of the pedophilia scandal in the Catholic Church) I guess you can speak to whether I managed to engage in that debate in a manner that was viewed as constructive rather than antagonistic 🙂

  2. lesliesholly says:

    Thank you for the thoughtful comment, Wendy. And no, I did not find your FB comment antagonistic! I have indeed hidden some people when I just couldn’t take seeing any more of their poll responses or obnoxious groups they have joined. I am used to being disagreed with about things almost all the time because some of my values are classified as liberal and some conservative.
    I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who has felt some discomfort over this issues. And I agree with you that it is interesting to learn new things about friends, and that respectful debate is a good way to refine one’s own views while perhaps learning something new.

  3. Justine Martin says:

    Leslie,
    I have to say I usually just say like or don’t like on facebook. Because i am a lousy typist, I either work with the people or have not seen them in forever and do not wish to be offensive in my comments. I stew forever and wear some of the ideas I see posted as horrible burdens (my principal suffered an anurism over spring break and has been in intensive care, heavily sedated now for about three weeks and i can only imagine how this woman a principal, the mother of 2 young daughters and the wife of another teacher is going to financially survive inspite of being insured if she mediaclly survives and please God has a full recovery)
    I can only say that in the hotbed of conservatism that seems to overwhelm my facebook friends yours is a welcome comment giving me hope that considered and careful real moderation will eventually win out.

    • lesliesholly says:

      Justine,
      Thanks so much for visiting and for commenting. More and more I am thinking you are probably right to stick with “like” and maybe some day we will finally get “dislike” too! Maybe I can just vent here instead of on Facebook!

  4. Emily says:

    I think maybe you should do a blog post on that one facebook group … I think you know the one I’m talking about – and how it seems funny at first but is inherently sick and wrong. I think that is one thing that needs to be said no matter if it offends people, because if being told that is wrong offends people, there is something wrong in the way they see the world…

    • lesliesholly says:

      I will think about it. I’ve been really unhappy about it and shocked by some of the people I know who have joined it. The very idea of praying for someone’s death, even as a joke, is so upsetting to me.

  5. Lilly says:

    Facebook can be an incredible platform for friendly debate or a horrible breeding ground for hate. I say as long as you moderate comments on your own threads, it’s okay. Commenting on others, I’m always a little hesitant.

  6. I rarely post anything political, but I did just recently post a very wordy post on my personal page after seeing some rather upsetting things put up. I take offense to either party pigeonholing any one group just based on their political affiliation. I have seen friends & old classmates, family and acquaintances bad mouthing, name calling & unfriending each other based on their political beliefs. I think this is silly. I may not understand another persons stance on things, but I do not think this makes them an idiot or a moron or an a**hole or any of the other things that I have seen. What is even sadder is most of the people doing the arguing are misinformed. They do not even understand what they are fighting for. They take social media posts & memes as gospel and do not have any opinions of their own. I have actually seen a whole political argument once with only memes. All of these arguments are pointless, because no one party ever concedes that the other might have a point. I am a conservative. Most of my belief system falls within that party, but I see merit in many liberal points of view too. I do not fall under under any of the generalizations that people believe being a conservative. I don’t think that anyone should assume they know me based on this. I am a wife, a mother, a loyal friend. I know what kind of person I am. For me Facebook is a place to share pictures of my daughter, catch up with old friends, see peoples vacations and adventures. It is supposed to be fun, but it has just turned into a soapbox for many and is so negative at times that I can barely read on. Sorry for the rant.

  7. Michele says:

    Hi Leslie, I for one would welcome an honest post about healthcare reform. I am not very political on social media because I have friends and family on both ends of the political spectrum. I do get upset when I see wildly inaccurate things posted as if they are the truth, but most of the time I blame it on ignorance of the poster. I’ve blocked a couple of people that drive me crazy. Mostly I think everyone deserves to say what they want and I can choose to react or not. Mostly I don’t, but I do sometimes when it is an issue I am very knowledgeable about, such as education. I guess I am just not inclined to get into facebook arguments. I do sometimes admire people who are knowledgeable and really put themselves out there.

  8. Just shut up and play Farmville..lol! I am kidding of course. I think you have a right to write whatever you like and if people don’t agree with it, they should just keep cruising! I don’t get upset by too much of what people post, but I do tend to keep quiet about controversial issues. I use to write about certain topics on my facebook page but after being threatened by mean people and having my readers threatened I decided to stay away from certain topics.

  9. I avoid politics at all costs on Facebook. I’ve found that it causes more harm than good. My thoughts and opinions are not likely to change anyone’s mind and more of the than not it sparks arguments between friends. I have a lot of friends who think very differently than I and in this age where everyone gets offended at the drop of a hat it’s not worth it! I choose to keep my Facebook politics-free. I stay lighthearted with pictures of my kids and dogs. 😉

  10. I will openly share my faith on fb but try to stay away from any other controversial subject. Have you ever read a fb that differed from your “world-view’ and even, for a minute, considered changing your opinions based on the post? IT just doesn’t happen. Social media isn’t the place for heavy discussions like this, at least, not if you hope for your opinions to be received and considered. Well….that’s my opinion anyway.

  11. I think it often depends on the person and the way it is presented. I don’t mind someone sharing their beliefs/convictions on occasion in a non-confrontational manner. However, if it is too often, rude, uninformed, or argumentative, I’m not impressed.

  12. Stephanie @ Casa Watkins says:

    Hmm politics and religion are very sensitive topics to share openly on Facebook. People tend to feel more confident sharing negative comments when they are not saying to someone’s face. However, I also think that if something moves you to share then you should do it. I am sure someone in the world would benefit form the discussion.

  13. Agatha says:

    Where do I start? When my hometown had peaceful protests against the government, and the police came in with tear gas to break it up (not to mention with violence, but my friends seem to disagree) it actually split my friends up into 2 groups. It was difficult and on the internet you can see who belongs where and there were even public groups siding with the government or the protestors. Eventually, there was a lot of bullying on the internet, some people lost their jobs and friends lost friends. I think I will keep my opinions to myself now; it’s a very sensitve topic.

  1. March 30, 2012

    […] in the last 50 years. I’ll send you the link from snopes.com to prove it. I’ll post it in the comments if you put it on Facebook and I might just blog about it too. That’s because truth is […]

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