Recently, I have seen a number of posts from people that I consider dear friends stating that they are either getting off of Facebook due to all of the political posts, or trying to unfollow all of the news and political sites. Yes, I know that most discussions on Facebook and social media regarding politics turn into disagreements and sometimes lead to hurt feelings and in the worst cases, a loss of a real-life friend. Yes, I know that supposedly no one’s mind is changed by discussions taking place on Facebook. So if this is the case, why do so many people continue to post political messages on Facebook and to be engaged in the events taking place in our world and why do others feel it’s necessary to leave the conversation completely? And why does this even matter?
The following comments are my observations as someone who uses social media on a daily basis for work and helps companies understand how to develop social media strategies. It’s not scientific but I thought it was worth taking a closer look at. Why do some tune in, while others tune out when it comes to politics on social media? And what can we learn from that?
Citizen Politic – Why We Tune In
Yes, Facebook is much more fun with puppy dogs and videos of our kids. But the great thing about Facebook is that you can unfollow those that do more than that and it offends you in some way. That’s fine to turn off your friend’s opinions and posts. Just don’t turn off to important world affairs that impact us all. Be knowledgeable. Be passionate. It’s not a partisan issue in my book, it’s a human issue and it’s our right and duty as citizens to get involved and to fight back when necessary whenever you feel deeply injustice is being done.
Frustration – Why We Tune Out
As I mentioned before, most people will agree that posting political commentary on Facebook doesn’t tend to solve any problems or offer any new insights into whatever you are posting about. Quite the contrary. In some, if not most cases it just leads to disagreements between friends, hurt feelings and no one’s opinions is changed. I know for a fact that spending your energy on trying to change someone’s mind on Facebook over a political issue is usually all for naught. This is especially true when you have two polarized views on the issue and both are focused on stating their own case and proving their point and not necessarily focused on reaching a solution. For most, including me, this back and forth with no focus on mutually agreed on points of view or looking for commonalities is physically and mentally draining and doesn’t lead to any positive outcomes.
How to Improve Social Media Engagements Around Politics
If you are truly wanting to have a positive experience and engage in civil discourse on Facebook, it can be done but you sometimes have to reframe your mindset. The best way you can improve your social engagements around politics on Social Media is to remember one of the basic tenants of Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and that’s HABIT 5: SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND, THEN TO BE UNDERSTOOD. This principle is somewhat simplistic when boiled down to the following: Listen more and talk less.
One of the reasons why it’s so hard to have engaging discussions using social media is that it’s sometimes difficult to ascertain someone’s true meaning of their statements without knowing their background or exact meaning of their words. Attempting to understand why someone is saying what they are saying sometimes leads to a mutually understanding and agreement which can then be built upon for an agreed upon solution. Healthcare is a great example… most if not everyone agrees that premiums are too high and that we need to have a system in place where more Americans are covered by health insurance and receive better outcomes. The question of how to get there is the challenge. A discussion in the comment section of Facebook probably can’t get you to a solution on a topic so complicated which is why it can be frustrating to even engage in that dialogue on Facebook. However, if you can take a conversation like this offline and focus on specific outcomes and putting policy before politics, a solution can be found and in this case lower premiums and insure more Americans.
Parting Words – Your Posts on Facebook Don’t Make You An Advocate
Even if you are very active on Facebook and post lots of great commentary on political issues in your newsfeed, unless you are a famous political commentator (Tomi Lahren, Stephen Colbert etc), you have to get off of social media to make a real difference. You can’t just expect your witty Facebook comments and posting of news stories will really solve any issues of consequence. My advice for those that feel passionate enough about a specific cause is to spend more time doing and less time commenting on Facebook. It’s only by doing that anything ever gets done.
If you want a few insights on how to get organized or take action when you are ready to do more than comment on issues on Facebook, download the FREE copy of The Advocate’s Playbook and learn how grassroots organizations are becoming more organized, taking on Goliath and winning!