Politics on Facebook

So someone found my blog via a search for “Politics on Facebook.” I was really saddened by what I found when I searched on that phrase. Most of the articles were about keeping politics off of Facebook or unfriending the people who post their politics online.

That’s frustrating to me.

I’m frustrated because it bothers me that people are writing article after article about how to keep political views off of Facebook when that’s exactly what should be on Facebook. Because behind those articles is, I imagine, one of the following sentiments:

  • “I don’t want to see opinions that are different from mine.”
  • “I don’t want to be bothered by politics when I’m goofing around on Facebook.”
  • “I’m just sick of politics.”

Back in 1998, David Shenk wrote Data Smog about how people could use the internet to create a powerful information filter so that a person never saw ideas other than the ones they already agreed with. This year, Eli Pariser The Filter Bubble, talking about how the way data is parsed on the internet is actually changing what information is being delivered to us. Those are powerfully dangerous trends that we see every day in the increasingly acrimonious and polarized political arena. Our politicians and, worse, our media are mirroring us, not looking to listen or build bridges or find common ground. That cannot be good for us as a nation.

Into that fray comes Facebook… where one may have to deal with the fact that their third-grade soccer teammate is now a huge Tea Party supporter or a died-in-the-wool liberal Obama fan. And I say that’s a good thing. But only if we seize the opportunity for what it is. It is a chance to talk and listen – a chance to argue to learn, not just argue to win. When old friends actually have to deal with each other’s differences and still find ways to reconcile themselves to the friendship, that has to be good for us as a nation.

So I say, keep politics on Facebook. Let’s learn to listen to one another. Let’s learn to debate and discuss with people who believe in ideas different from our own. And let’s remember that spending time discussing what we think and how we feel about the direction our nation is taking should be time well-spent.

After all, it has to be more important that Farmville, right?


8 thoughts on “Politics on Facebook

  1. As great as that sounds, I’m only visiting this site because I tend to agree with what you say and I find you interesting.

    If your ideas were different from my own then I’d never have subscribed. I bet that goes for every single person who visits regularly.

    • That’s actually not entirely true. Much of what I read is from a left-perspective. But there are some amazing educators who I respect greatly who are far more conservative than I am. And we read each others’ blogs and comment on each others’ facebook walls. And we even discuss politics when we disagree.

      We can read things we don’t agree with. We can discuss ideas. We can debate. We can find common ground, and we can explore the places where we can’t.

      And we should do that a lot more than we currently do.

  2. So, today I risked a long-term friendship with a former grad student with kids I’m quite fond of,

    She posted a letter on Facebook from her charter school principal (with the sort of Dickensian school name you just can’t make up) announcing that her kid’s perfect score on one part of the state standardized test has earned him recognition at an upcoming school assembly.

    Of course the parent is proud and wants to brag on the kid for all of her friends. I however, could not resist the temptation to point out how her child was being exploited as a political pawn in order to justify standardized testing, test–prep, along with the fiscal costs and threats to our democracy resulting from test-mania.

    I tried relating as a friend and fellow parent by pointing out that my three college graduate children did not take California standardized tests and reiterated how fond I was of her kids. I also shared a link to Alfie Kohn’s classic essay, “Only for My Kid: How Privileged Parents Undermine School Reform.” (http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/ofmk.htm)

    I mentioned how difficult it must be for a parent to maintain perspective over the win experienced by their child when it comes at the expense of many other children.

    I tried my best to be kind. Surely, a fellow educator would be open to my views, right?

    I suspect I will be unfriended on Facebook and not invited to any more birthday parties.


    PS: When you post the letter announcing that Jakob or Theo crushed his classmates on standardized tests, I will share my displeasure with you too!

    PPS: Isn’t it a violation of federal law (or at least unethical) to announce a student’s confidential standardized test scores at an assembly?

    • You can feel secure in the knowledge that I won’t post how Jakob or Theo crushed their classmates on a standardized test. I think that’s solid ground. And yeah, I think it is a violation of FERPA laws.

  3. I suspect people want to skip the political discussions on Facebook for the same reason they want to avoid politics and religion when they go home to visit the family. Those are difficult topics to seriously address in a social situation. However, if Facebook is going to be a fundamental part of society, it needs to include the hard stuff in addition to pictures of your kids, links to funny videos, and ads about what your friend just bought.

  4. I had a similar issue today with an online bible study community with which I choose to associate. I shared a different point of view (more liberal, less fundamentalist) about a particular topic and am pretty sure I was almost called a heretic by some of the members. It saddens me that this piece of the public square that asks for comments only really wants them if they are in lock step with the “community.”

    We live in the United States where we are given the right to vote!! Free and (mostly fair, voter id laws notwithstanding) elections! We live in a place where we can scream about our love for President Obama and our hate for President Obama in the same public forum, then shake hands and have a beer. For this is the greatest gift of our democracy. I relish in the fact that we get to have these arguments in our most ubiquitous public forum of Facebook. Might I lose a friend or two? Perhaps, but were they really my friends to begin with? Before I go all Andy Shepherd on this topic, I will say thank you for posting this and keep up the conversation!

  5. Dissonance is hard. Thinking one’s way through it is harder. So, they avoid both.

    Sad state of Americans, but it explains why our government is so screwed up. Too many people prefer to be told the easy way out instead of finding the correct way on their own. #sheep

  6. I actually made a decision to stop posting/replying to political stuff on Facebook because I noticed a trend of well … stupidity. I consider myself a decently intelligent man, but I found myself in argument with people who simply couldn’t be argued because they were such blockheads. And honestly, this isn’t MY opinion. I’m talking about arguments with people who are making egregious spelling errors, saying multiple things in the same sentence, making wild assumptions and offensive statements … that’s stupid, and I don’t want to suffer stupid people.