Things to remember when engaging in political discourse on Facebook.

If you are a person alive in 2017, you have a social media presence. Probably Facebook, if nothing else. Here’s how to Facebook responsibly:

  1. Clear out the clutter.
    We all know we have friends on Facebook just because. Maybe you had a chance encounter for thirty seconds your first day of college orientation. Maybe you had to friend an old coworker to ask them if they would cover your shift three years ago. These people don’t know you, they add nothing to your life. Unfriend them. This will help you both as now you don’t have to see the Islamophobic Facebook statuses of a boy your sister had a crush on in high school and they’re spared from your vicious, vicious clapback.
  2. Pick your battles.
    To anyone who actually knows me or is my friend on Facebook, this may seem like a hypocritical statement. Oh, if only you knew how many battles I’m not picking.
    There are some easy indicators of battles to stay away from:

    • If you have Facebook friends who you don’t really care about but can’t unfriend because of some reason or another (family, work, school), don’t bother. Unfollow them so you don’t have to lay witness to their problematic statuses. Your ignorance will protect you and you can continue to like them.
    • If there’s already debate happening in the comments, just back away. Obviously, lend your support if you feel like there’s unwarranted attack or something, but you can just like a comment and keep scrolling. Someone’s already saying something, you don’t need to repeat it.
    • If a person is hopeless, don’t waste your time. You’ve argued with this person before, they either don’t get what you’re saying or are too stubborn to understand. It’s not worth it. Unfriend them. Or resign yourself to their stupidity and scroll through their feed when you need to build up a good rage.
  3. Remain objective.
    Now, this applies to any argument, but it’s especially difficult in text communication to remember. If you have to say something, if you have to comment or put in your input (no judgement, I understand the impulse) it’s important to remember that you are not attacking the person, you are attacking their argument. I am not arguing with you, a person, I am arguing with this status or meme you posted. I do not care if you are a mother or served in the military or have a black friend, I care about what you’re saying. I do not care if you are my Aunt or my sister’s boss or my mother’s childhood friend, I care about how you’re speaking to me. Furthermore: I don’t need disclaimers. Yes, I know you still love me, but I’m going to respond to this diatribe condemning millennials. Yes, I know you still love me, but climate change is real and I’m not going to let you pretend it isn’t.
    It’s not disrespectful to ignore your tragic backstory if you’re trying to use your tragic backstory as a defense for your argument. I don’t want that defense, I want an actual defense. If I’m taking the courtesy to divorce myself and my personal stake in this debate, you should do the same.
    And I know, in ever class we’ve ever taken about persuasive writing, we’re told that pathos is how you sway an audience. But in my experience, giving a sob story only opens up a door for the other side to claim you’re biased and undercut your entire thesis. I have been dismissed in arguments because I was the ‘middle child.’ I have been dismissed in arguments because ‘you just want to vote for a woman because she’s a woman.’ So, no, I don’t exist in an argument. I’m just a mouthpiece. Attack my words, because there is not a person here.
  4. Leave the mess where it is.
    Facebook does not exist in a vacuum, it’s true: you actually have to see these people in real life, eventually. Leave the Facebook arguments on Facebook. It’s possible to be a fully functioning human being and have conversations outside of whatever drama got you heated. This doesn’t make you fake or two-faced, it makes you an adult. This doesn’t mean you’re going back on your beliefs or taking back anything you may have said, it means you know how to conduct yourself in society. Off of Facebook, I am a person. There is a personality behind the mouthpiece and this person knows how to artfully dodge uncomfortable topics when the time doesn’t call for it. There’s a time and place, your mother’s birthday party is not that.

Basically, don’t be a bully. Remember that your arguments are not you and if you’re being called out, examine why that might be. And don’t get mad when people call you out: you’re the one who posted something controversial, do not be shocked when there’s controversy.

And maybe step back from Facebook if you’re feeling overwhelmed. You’re responsible for yourself first.

-JM

(Disclaimer that these views and opinions are strictly the views and opinions of Jessie Maggio. Jessie Brokenshire barely uses Facebook. She’s smarter than me.)

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