Share your lunch and politics on Facebook

by Madison Hopkins

MCT Campus

Scrolling through social network newsfeeds can be a mundane activity filled with dull statuses and pictures of every irrelevant thing your friends have ever done. Or it could be a thought-provoking experience, full of controversial statements regarding political ideals. I think the latter sounds much more interesting, but not everyone feels the same way.

With the election wrapping up, it’s common to see peoples’ latest political insights on social networking sites. However, with these political posts comes a backlash of angry users, swooping in to condemn shared political ideas online. Although these statuses can be understandably frustrating and not always well thought-out, it’s the right of all users to post whatever they wish.

Social networking sites are open forums, which cannot and should not be censored for every potential nuisance. The overabundance of cryptic song lyrics to symbolize some melodramatic crisis in an online friend’s life is quite frustrating to me, but it doesn’t mean I don’t respect his or her right to share it. The same should apply to politically minded posts. But, rather than simply overlooking the unwanted statuses, online etiquette advocates go out of their way to complain. There is even a Facebook group dedicated to ending political statuses on the site. The time and energy wasted complaining could be better used engaging in an open discussion regarding the issues. If this is too contradictory to the Facebook group’s cause, the other option is to simply ignore the political posts and leave those who are actually interested alone.

Many people who strongly oppose political status updates believe politics don’t have a place in the social setting, but belong in private, mutually consenting conversations.

“If they want to discuss the matters with people, then they should do so in person with individuals that they know will be OK with it, rather than assuming their entire Facebook population is interested,” marketing sophomore Anna Stevens said.

While face-to-face political discussions do offer a more private environment, online discourse has its advantages. We shouldn’t assume every single user posts each status hoping to catch someone’s eye. Maybe this person was previously disinterested in politics, but uses Facebook as an opportunity to get involved in the debate.

The U.S is built on the ability to share contradicting ideas in public without the fear of being silenced. Anything that gets more people actively thinking about politics will only aid in creating a more educated society.

The obvious problem with Facebook political discussions is many people who post these statuses don’t always have their facts straight.

While it’s true not all statuses are created equal, they still offer the same opportunity. Those who actually know what they’re talking about create the opportunity for friends to present opposing or supporting comments. Those not as well-informed present the chance for others to educate them in the error of their ways. Both instances allow those who are interested to say something and those who aren’t to just leave it alone. If a status is actually offensive with no intellectual basis, other users always reserve the right to report it to Facebook. Ultimately, people have the right to spew out any half-baked remark, the same way other users have the right to openly respond in any way they see fit.

If the constant flood of politics online is truly too much to handle, there is an obvious solution. Social networking sites allow users to end virtual friendships with the simple click of a button.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, almost one fifth of social networking users “decided to block, unfriend, or hide someone because of their politics or posting activities.”

Social media networks are an increasingly large part of the average person’s life. It’s only natural those who feel strongly about politics want to use the opportunity for mass communication to put their ideas out there. Candidate fan pages and political memes have replaced the campaign bumper stickers and lawn signs of the past. With this new era of social network campaigning, we have the chance to reach more people than ever and let individual voices be heard. Those who take advantage of this opportunity have the right to share their opinions and if others disagree, the “unfriend” button is always just a click away.