Facebook as a platform for expressing our politics

As most of you probably do, I have a very mixed bunch of people as ‘friends’ on Facebook. I have people I went to school with that I haven’t seen for years, people I met on random nights out in uni and have only met in person once and other humans I have come into contact with. It is a great tool for staying in touch with people.

There is a huge range of views and opinions held by this number of people. Recently, with the election and then with the latest refugee crisis, people are using it as a platform to express their political beliefs. Whilst it is great to see people getting politically engaged, it is very difficult to see people expressing opinions that I genuinely think are abhorrent. Seeing people express things that do not seem to be based on facts or research, but instead appear to be based on gut feelings and a frenzied media. I want to comment on their statuses with links to articles, or other opinions but I know that this will rapidly devolve into an internet argument with people that I don’t want to hurt or cause offense to.

I find it difficult to know how to act. The way I was raised is to question opinions that you think are based on prejudice and fear rather than facts, as these opinions can fester into dangerous and irresponsible actions. Also, I may be mistaken, so the general idea is to provoke reasoned debate. Tricky to do through words on a screen which can be taken with so many different tones and feelings, many of which the writer has never felt or meant to imply.

Often though this will devolve into a petty, frustrating and public argument with someone instead of opening up a rational dialogue.

So then, what can you do? Hide them from your feed? Only let your opinions that bolster up your own into your line of sight? I don’t want to be narrow minded. I don’t want my opinions to never come under influence from those that are hugely different. The thing is , at the moment, most of the stuff I see being expressed that makes me feel bad doesn’t seem to have any basis in research. I’ve seen statuses which start ‘I reckon’ and then say stuff about refugees. You reckon?? With all of this knowledge available to you through the internet, you haven’t even tried to learn the truth?

People I have known for years posting things like ‘share if you agree that our homeless veterans should be looked after before refugees’. Mate, I have known you for over a decade, when people suggest helping homeless people you say ‘what about pensioners rather than drug addicts?’. Instead of seeing us all as one beautiful tribe, when it comes to actually putting someone else’s interests before your own you will narrow the scope of ‘us’ own until it’s just your immediate family, if they’re lucky.

I am frustrated. I am so frustrated. And I bet I’m pissing people off and frustrating them with my statuses as well. I wish that Facebook lead to us actually meeting up and talking our different views.

The main problems with this in my mind seem to be:

  • Facebook is a public platform. Who wants to have an opinion that they are passionate about ripped to shreds in front of someone they went to school with, their mum’s best mate and all of their friends from high school? You feel a pressure to not look like a tit because everything is there in black and white for people to read and reread.
  • Facebook doesn’t have established etiquette to help guide our communication. As a relatively new medium for communication different people tend to have different ideas of what is acceptable to say to each other on here. For some people unfriending someone is a huge deal and for others it isn’t. Nothing is really standardised so it can be difficult to know how to communicate without causing offence. Even when we type something politely because there isn’t the tone and body language that we get from a face-to-face interaction the subtleties of the message are often lost.
  • The image we present on Facebook isn’t a true reflection of who we are. There are some people who will share a picture on Facebook without having looked into where the actual images are from and without considering it’s implication. Britain First are brilliant at doing this, creating seemingly innocuous memes and getting people to share them. There is often a generational difference in this, I have noticed that younger generations tend to be more skeptical about what they read on the internet. Often then, an image of someone’s character is being created which doesn’t really exist. This can go both ways, someone can be a clicktivist all they want and actually never going out of their way for anyone.

On top of all this, people are used to posting statuses and not really thinking about it. For so long Facebook has been a way for us to express whatever we’re thinking at the time, whether that’s about night’s out, what you had for dinner or how much you’re enjoying your holiday – it’s not exactly stuff you need to back up with research. When you are expressing opinions about extremely complicated issues on a platform you are used to expressing opinions about how your hair looks, it is less likely you will give those issues due consideration.

I am trying to be more understanding of people whose opinions are at total odds with my own, I hope they’ll try to be more understanding too.

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