3 Tips on Politics, Friendships, and Facebook
By SuePatterson on November 01, 2012
We’re midway through the early voting phase, and getting closer to election time. But, that’s probably hard to miss – no matter where you live. Not that the US politics are in the front of everyone’s minds worldwide, that would be a tad egotistical to believe. The commercials, the commentary, and the social media keep it front and center. Several of the issues have become hot buttons for many of us, and rightly so. But some people do better than others as far as stating their opinion without bashing their friend’s choice. I think it will be interesting in the future to look back during this time and see how we handled everything. Not the voting choice, which of course will be a huge factor in what the future even looks like, but how we treated each other during the process.
I grew up in Dallas. And we were taught that Religion and Politics were big no-no’s when it comes to polite conversation. But with Facebook encouraging us to “like” different groups and sub-groups, our friends are quite aware of our political leanings. And, I would just like to say that that’s perfectly okay. We don’t live in a country where your life could be threatened for being in a particular party. Your job, hopefully, doesn’t hang in the balance if you vote a particular way. This DOES happen in other countries, and regardless of how we feel about the state of the union right now, it’s not happening here.
So here are my 3 Tips on how to deal with the next week and a half.
1. Your opinion matters
Resist the thought that you are just one person and it doesn’t matter. Guard yourself from becoming jaded. When you back out of this process, you potentially leave everything in the hands of the loudest or most aggressive people. They probably don’t share your ideas or perspective. That may well be their goal: Come to “our side” or be quiet and stay out of the way. The one left standing often finds themself to be the winner. Perseverence and stamina are frequently the deciding factors. But that’s not how the process works best. We’re not really taught, in school at least, to stand your ground. We are taught to acquiesce to authority. If we speak up and it’s not that well-formed, we are ridiculed and told to sit down. How does a person learn then? How do they GET better if they’re not allowed the time to work through it? This has been a big factor for many of us in our growing up years, and I think it’s a factor on why we bail so easily – on so many things. Be brave. You’re not alone on this path trying to figure it all out. But your voice counts and your opinion DOES matter.
2. Get More Info
Even if someone hasn’t mastered how to more delicately use social media, don’t throw up your hands and declare it all a lost cause. Yes, it can be uncomfortable. But look at what’s making you uncomfortable. Is it because you don’t feel you know enough about the topics? You can do something about that. Even if you’re afraid everything is so slanted and spun, ask a few people you respect or trust, maybe even privately. See what’s helping influence their decisions. This is a little deeper conversation than a lot of what goes on with social media, but it would be such a better use of it! Yes, we’ve all grown up in a world of sound bytes and 30 minute sitcoms, but we can do better than that. So maybe your questions might be:
- Where do you get your news?
- Do you vote because of a particular issue?
- What would you say your 3 biggest reasons to vote for your candidate would be?
3. Share your opinions
But do it with a little grace. Just because some picture riles you up or even makes you giggle a little – think twice before you share it. Is it meant to offend the other person? Does it have information that could be shared more gently? Are you feeling unheard? Think finesse instead of barking. Bombarding people with posts or simply trying to shout louder than the other guy, isn’t really going to help your position . If anything, it will make people dig in their heels and feel THEIR position isn’t being heard. It turns into a downward lack-of-communication spiral. Still, don’t be afraid to engage in the dialogue of the day. And if someone is trying to bully you, ridicule your opinion, or shout over you, change who you communicate with. Just because you’re “friends on Facebook” doesn’t mean you have to respond to every comment they make. Still, don’t go back to the 1950′s where you don’t speak up at all. We’ve made a little progress from there. You can speak your mind with tact, even if you have to practice a little. That’s how we all evolve into better, more informed people.
I’m certainly not saying that I’ve always followed this advice. But now, with the benefit of just a little hindsight, I think it matters. We are here for a reason. Everyone has something to contribute. We were given days on this earth that others were denied. Let’s make good use of it. Are you using your time here the way you want to? Your day, your choices, your future – it’s in your hands. Mine too.