Do Facebook and politics mix?
Facebook is like my little coffee break. As a writer, I spend way too much time in front of the computer in my home office. Alone. So when I want to take a five minute (okay, ten minute) break, I'll sometimes go on Facebook and see what the world is up to. Whose dog died? Whose baby is finally toilet trained? Who went out last night and didn't invite me?
A nice diversion, until the last few weeks. It seems that lately all everyone is up to is politics. And everyone has something to say, fight, rant about.
It has giving me virtual heartburn.
I liked it better when people just bragged about their kids or told you what they were having for dinner or bought you a virtual Margarita. All this political back and forth is too intense, too angry, too much for a social network. After all, isn't a social network supposed to be, well, social? Not angry. Not intense? Didn't mom and dad tell us to not discuss politics and religion at dinner or a party or virtual social gatherings?
According to those experts who study Facebook, 25 percent of all posts have become political in nature during the last few months. I'm not sure why people post so much about their political views. Are they trying to convert others? Do they want to debate with friends? It doesn't seem that way. It seems that there's a lot of hostility in the posts. People have their opinions. Period. Anyone who disagrees risks the worst type of ostracism—the Facebook block.
It's about bashing the opposition rather than having meaningful dialogues. There's a lot of 'this is my view, if you don't agree, I'll unfriend you' mentality. And that's what is happening. All this political incivility is straining friendships. Heck, all this political nastiness is ruining friendships, or at least virtual friendships.
The way people rant on Facebook is very different from how they'd speak in real time—unless they are drunk. If they ranted in person like they do on their laptops, they'd be labeled a bore.
I think Facebook rants are akin to flipping the bird at another car while you're driving. If you were sitting next to the person, you'd exercise restraint. But since you're just typing into a computer it doesn't feel as real.
A March survey from the Pew Internet and American Life Project of 2,253 U.S. adults found that nearly 50 percent of Democrats and 33 percent of Republicans said that social networking sites were important to them in keeping up with political news. The survey indicated that about 20 percent of social media users unfriend people with different political views.
I liked it better when everyone was obsessed with Farmville.