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Facebook politicking

Nicole Michels | Friday, November 9, 2012

“Off the fiscal cliff we go.”
“Ohio may not win championships, but we sure do win presidential elections.”
“If I’m going to live in a communist country I prefer to live in a tropical one.  Off to Cuba!”
“It’s chill, the apocalypse is in like a month.”
“Ballots full of women.  Love you, Obama.”
“Luckily, in Illinois, my vote is cancelled out by the vote of at least one dead person’s and possibly someone’s pet.”
While these excerpts from my news feed are funny, far too many of the pre- and post-election statuses were insanely partisan rants about the “injustice in our country,” the “corrupt political system,” the “ruin the U.S. is quickly approaching” and about other subjects ranging from taxes to abortion and healthcare.
Why do so many of our peers seem to think the Internet – Facebook, specifically – is an appropriate venue to reveal intimate aspects of our political beliefs?  Forget amusing ones like those at the beginning of this column, I’m talking about posts where people indulge in proselytizing on social media.  I have to question the motives of these people, because I cannot think of even one person I know who would see a Facebook post and change his or her political views.  Why, then, do so many of us do this?
Maybe the person just wants affirmation his or her viewpoint is ‘right’ by soliciting comments confirming the opinion he or she posts.  Maybe the original poster just wants to appear clever, to make sure everyone knows just how funny, smart and well-informed they actually are.  Maybe the person genuinely wants to transform the mindsets of his or her Facebook community in an arguably misguided attempt to inform.
The truth of the matter is any of these motivations are misguided when the status is a partisan diatribe.  Proclaiming political affiliations on Facebook is the equivalent of standing in the middle of South Quad, DeBartolo Hall or any other public place in your real-life ‘network’ and screaming “I hate pro-choice/pro-life people!” or “I want the government to give me money!”
Very few people would do that. When you don’t know your audience it is incredibly difficult to share very personal aspects of belief without doing it offensively – or at the very least, awkwardly.
To all you partisan Facebook ranters: Do you really want to show your hand by revealing your political beliefs to everyone in your community?  By delivering that information in person, you can ensure that you control who knows it and the perception that they form of you.  By passing that off into the Internet world, you give that choice to anyone in your social network. 
At least we all can now take a collective breath: Election season is over.  As our news feeds clear of partisan bickering, hopefully we can all use Facebook more constructively … right?