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?