I’ve been seeing a lot of people writing about how tired they are of Facebook content being so focused on politics right now. I have felt that way myself. I’ve been seeing this sentiment expressed by people on both sides of politics. I’ve been thinking about this concept of everything being so black and white and intense right now, and how to stay calm. I’ve come up with a few thoughts that have helped me quite a bit the last week or so. I thought I would share.
1. Consider your friends and family members. A lot of what gets shared on both sides is pretty extreme stuff. This one person who said this insane, crazy thing. The story often gets shared as “Wow look at how awful this (liberal or conservative) is.” Then this devolves into an argument with their friends or family members who are of that political party, but who didn’t do or say what that person said. So try to remember that there are bad people in both parties who do extreme things, and try not to look down on your family members or friends of that same party if they didn’t do (or wouldn’t do) the same thing. I’ll be honest – I started by feeling like a lot of the people on “the other side” had shared things pointed at “my side” that were pretty fringe examples. Then I started noticing that the examples “my side” were using were often similarly “far out there” people in the media, too. I knew that my friends and family members who are on the other side politically would not condone the actions this person took, so I had to step back and make sure I wasn’t putting that “blame” on my friends or family members. Don’t let the extreme examples in the media color your view of the people you know who vote differently than you do.
2. Keep in mind that posting anything even slightly political will likely bring about people who want to defend the other side. I’ve seen multiple posts on Facebook recently of people saying “I’m so tired of hearing about politics!” and then in the comments someone says “yeah I can’t believe these posts defending XYZ” and then of course someone jumps in to defend XYZ! So quite ironically, the post trying to dismiss fighting about politics starts a new fight! I’ve found that just not discussing politics (or even my frustration of politics) is the way to go. Of course, people who do share often feel that a discussion needs to be had, and that’s fine if that’s their choice, but if your goal is to avoid “drama” and conflict then not mentioning politics in any form is best.
3. Be careful with pages you follow, and/or your settings. Depending on how your Facebook settings are configured, your comments or ‘likes’ on articles posted by Fanpages (such as news sites) may show up in your friends’ feeds. I have one family member who never discusses politics in her own status, but she commented on a newsstory on a fan page and a fight broke out with her friends as a result of them seeing her comment in their feed. Also keep in mind that if you comment on a friends status, your family members or others may see your comment on their post even if they are not friends with that person. Again, you can control your Facebook privacy settings if you want to adjust this.
4. If you do want to share articles without upsetting people as much, be really careful about what you share. If you share an article that you 90% agree with, your friends might think you also agree with the remaining 10% and pick an argument over that. Also double-check any stats or facts promoted in the article to make sure they are true to (again) avoid conflict over confusion.
5. In general, try not to make sweeping statements. If you start a sentence with Conservatives (or liberals) believe/think/say/ etc you are making a pretty broad statement. It’s not so different from saying Men (do x) or women (Say x). For example, if you say men like the color blue, you would expect a guy who doesn’t care for the color blue to comment, right? The same thing is likely to be true if you make a comment about republicans in general or democrats in general. Most people don’t align perfectly with any one party, so taking the actions of one person and using them as an example for a party is never ideal. A more fair and accurate way to frame your statement is THIS one person said x which I don’t agree with. That can open a discussion about the action that you disagree with. Where if you say this republican/democrat did X and that’s why I am not a republican/democrat. If you frame it that way, the argument will likely just be about the two sides in general which may never even get around to discussing the specific act that you thought was problematic.
6. Ask genuine questions and try to understand others. It’s so rare for political discussions to not get heated. However, when I have been able to listen in on debates that do stay polite and respectful it’s been quite eye-opening. You can potentially learn a lot about your friends or family members if you are able to ask calm questions about their perspective, ethics, and so on. You may have more in common than you realize.
Do you have any tips for avoiding conflict during this social climate that is so focused on politics? Share them below!