Politics and the Facebook Comment Thread: A Saga.

If you have agreed with someone you argued with politically on facebook, feel free to stop reading this now.

Ok, so I assume most of you are continuing to read because, like so many people, you have never had a successful political conversation on facebook. The culture of sharing your political views on facebook has grown quite a bit in the past couple years. I remember back when Facebook was just beginning I didn’t even have my political affiliation on my bio. Now, it is ever so easy to figure out someone’s stance on almost any political agenda just by looking at their wall.

Everyone has an opinion and everyone feels entitled to share it.

During the last presidential race, my blood boiled more often from social media than I ever thought possible. Many of my friends and relatives from home were sharing anti-Hilary or anti-Bernie Sanders posts from extremely conservative news sources. I couldn’t believe how willing they were to follow such articles and actually believe them! How could people I trusted and loved have such views? I started to regret many of my experiences with them and distanced many friends from home.

I took it upon myself to correct them in the comments, in the hope that they would see the truth and not believe everything they read. I was wrong. My comments caused the original poster to counter-attack with their own diatribes about the “liberal media” and the ever so touchy liberal youth. Our mutual friends chose sides by liking either my comments or theirs, basically starting an ideological battlefront of upwards of 30 comments on a simple post. I finally decided to end my commenting and unfollow the post because I saw no end to the bickering.

How familiar does this situation feel? I know most of you can relate since the last presidential race felt more personal than ever before. Many of us were commenting to save the country and not let either a “liar” or a “fascist crook” into the oval office. The political atmosphere of facebook became so bad that I personally unfollowed multiple people on facebook and twitter because of their political agendas. Was this beneficial? I have no idea, but it felt good.

In my media and society class, we spoke about the political atmosphere of media today. The idea of “Outrage Media” became a focus for our class’ discussion. Outrage media is political discourse involving a mindful attempt to provoke a visceral response from the audience. It is done through categorical attacks, misleading info, incivility, partial truths. Popular examples include Tomi Lahren, Rachel Maddow, Rush Limbaugh, and Samantha Bee. Our class discussed how popular these news outlets have become especially among conservatives because of their extremist views. Many people feel comfort knowing that their most extreme values are shared in a public space, and they have a channel to express their opinions without being ostracized by the popular media, which capitalizes on the need to be courteous to everyone. Conservatives feel that their opinions and thoughts are not allowed, that they will be called homophobes, racists, and misogynists for sharing their views which usually aren’t as extreme as they seem.

I began to realize that maybe the people I argue with on social media can be talked to in a way that we can find a middle ground. I have started to be extremely cordial to my political dissidents on social media. Instead of attacking, I ask questions and rely on their answers to make a counterpoint. I offer personal examples of how some views affect others and try to let the other person know where I am coming from, and vice versa. On multiple occasions since I began this formula, my comment threads have led to a pleasant ending and a virtual shaking of hands, a political truce that makes everyone content.

Everyone is human, and hopefully, everyone is coming from a well thought out and heartfelt point of view. To believe that everyone who doesn’t agree with you 100% is evil or ignorant is both unhealthy and unconstructive. We are never going to agree on everything, but if we just listen to our friends and colleagues, instead of dismissing them as labeled enemies, we can make some substantial change in the political atmosphere of our country. Love thy neighbor, for they have different experiences than you.

-DK

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