Everyone knows that you should never bring up “religion or politics” in polite company. None of us actually ever do … at least not in “real life”. I mean, when was the last time you were hanging out at a bar or at the hair salon and just whipped out your most emotive ideas about abortion or global warming or the war in Iraq?
“Hey, Sally, I love what you do for my doo. You’re the best stylist in the world. So, what do you think about those Bible-thumping Inquisitors siding with rapists and actually trying to expand male-subjugation of women in our modern rape culture?”
Or maybe …
“Hey, Joe, thanks. You mix the best whiskey sour ever. Aren’t you super offended by murderous sinners carving unborn babies out of women’s bodies and mutilating them to death?”
Uh … yeah. So, you never do that, do you? Not in the real world with actual, real people. You’ll do it, or something like it, on Facebook or Tumblr or whatever, but never in person. Not face-to-face, day-to-day.
Sure, you do talk about that stuff in real life, but, for a moment, think about when you do, and where you do, and how often you do. And most importantly, with whom you do.
If you are in your twenties or thirties and you happen to be visiting your old grandparents or some old uncles or aunts … even just older friends, you probably don’t ring the doorbell and leap right into, “Hey, thanks for inviting us over, Old People, I really think you should support gay marriage even though I know you are in your 70s and totally Christian.”
You don’t do that. You don’t. Ever. And I don’t care who you are. You do have old Christian friends—like every single person reading this—and no matter how you feel about the issue, you never do that kind of thing to them. You don’t see them for the first time in a while and jam them up on abortion. You just don’t.
And same for the other “side” of the political spectrum. When you go visit your lefty or old hippy friends, you don’t walk in the door and say, “Hi there Lefty Friend, have you finally realized why the right to carry firearms is the most important part of being an American?”
You don’t. You literally never, ever do, in any way remotely similar to that. Ever. Period.
None of that happens in “real” life because people don’t treat each other like that. Not civilized ones, anyway. Doing that is shitting on your friendships, your relationships. It’s showing complete and total disrespect. Regardless of where you are on the political spectrum, you never do that in the real world to your real friends—the ones you have to look in the eye when you say things and see in their faces and in their body language the effects of your words—you don’t do it because you were brought up better than that. You know it is disrespectful. That’s why you literally never do it … in real life.
But you do it on Facebook.
Yes, we all have vastly different ideas about IDEALS, but because ideology is exactly what it is—morality based on concepts rather than easily executed mass behavior—smart people all sort of get how ideals work. Ideals are concepts that shape how we pursue our political and social and spiritual and artistic and even personal approaches to living. But they are goals, distant guideposts, things to aim at to shape our journey, keep it on course … like the North Star. They really are things to strive for, but, if we are being realistic, idealistic pursuits are probably never going to actually be in our grasp ALL THE WAY. Ever. So, being intelligent, complex thinkers, we understand that our ideals, our favorite ones, have to be tempered by reality when we are in social situations. That’s why, in real life, when we have to look one another in the eye, we don’t shit on each other at every opportunity.
Unless we are on Facebook.
If we are on Facebook, well, then, FUCK YOU!!!!!
Every time you share a link to some climate change article (probably on some totally horrible lefty website that has zero quality control in terms of journalism), you are basically tossing up the middle finger to all your friends and family who don’t share your exact political (or religious) opinion. It doesn’t even matter if the article has at least some basis in fact. Every argument that holds any water at all has SOME basis in fact. It just also lacks all the other contexts of every other possible belief, understanding, opposing study or just general inclinations of those who oppose its subjective conclusions.
Same goes for that outraged piece of “journalism” explaining why Obama not only isn’t a citizen, he actually pitchforked babies during his time at the Jihadist training grounds during those missing 5 months when he was 17. Yes, some website that espouses your political views can cobble together enough bits of information to concoct an ink-blot foundation for a plausible reality version of that narrative. And that’s fine. It might even be true; who actually ever knows anything, really? So, fine, maybe you and your political brethren could really have unearthed the freakish truth that everyone else is missing. That’s great.
And I get it. You have a point you want to make. You want to spread your beliefs, encourage voting, etc. It’s all part of the system. I totally get that. That is actually what a real democracy requires. I actually encourage you to keep reading all that … stuff. All parties, all beliefs, read all your favorite party-line, partisan versions of whatever. No matter how insane or blindly adhering to doctrine. Obviously I hope you read outside of those sources that are preaching to your choir, but, of course keep reading your favorite stuff. At least you read, for God’s sake. But don’t share that stuff on Facebook. It’s not the place, as much as you want it to be, just because it’s the one place you have access to an “audience”, AKA, a bunch of innocent “friends” and family who just wanted to get updates on your life because they like and/or love you and Facebook purported to making that easy. It did make that easy, but that’s not what you are doing when you link and/or post your political stuff.
And for what it’s worth, none of that political stuff you share is new. It literally hasn’t been new since the democratic debates of ancient Athens and Sparta. Socrates famously tried to explain that in conversation, you should not “emphasize the things on which you differ but rather those things upon which you agree. Keep emphasizing, if possible, that you are both striving for the same end and that your only difference is of method and not of purpose.”
Meaning, you and your opponent are not actually opponents. How many of us actually want the economy to collapse? How many of us in the U.S. want the terrorists to win and convert the world to burka-wearing new realities? How many of us want gay people to go back into hiding because our society can’t handle that some people are really, actually, in the real universe, different? How many of us want women to be raped or babies to be butchered? Seriously?
Okay, probably some of us, actually. But whatever. So totally few.
And yeah, it’s complicated.
So the point here is not to say that you are wrong, whatever you believe. I’m not. I don’t pretend I know what the answers to a happy universe are. I’m certainly not saying that if you are anti-Constitutional 2nd Amendment, or if you are anti-humanist gay marriage … that you are a bad person. It’s all so totally complex.
I totally get that people who don’t understand or have any experience with guns are completely mesmerized by political anti-gun marketing. They simply can’t fathom, can’t imagine, that our modern, peaceful-seeming system could suddenly go the way of a Nazi Germany some day—the way of, uh, England as it actually already happened on our soil. I get it. That will never happen, and 2nd Amendment advocates are practically cavemen. I understand the arguments, all of them. I don’t agree, but I totally get it.
It’s the same way that people who don’t actually know any LGBT people in a deep and meaningful way are completely confident that they “get it” in terms of gay marriage and yet they can’t fathom, won’t fathom, won’t imagine, that these people are real in a real, day-after-day actual life living in an actual world. Despite the LGBT humans standing there trying to explain their real, genuine experiences as living people, many other people still oppose allowing LGBT people the right to be different yet equal in every actual way.
It’s fine. I get that those two paragraphs, individually, will piss people off. It’s fine. You have a right to be pissed off by one of them, even both—though I don’t think I know anyone that I could piss off with both. It’s sort of my speciality to be able to not be pissed off too much by any “sides.” As an artist, I like to think it is my job to just try to understand as many sides as possible and then try to somehow facilitate something other than hate. My novel series is literally several thousand pages of me trying to work through all of this in a fantasy/sci-fi setting, something alien and fanciful so as to not offend anyone, a context of fantasy that allows everyone from all sides to step back and try to cut one another a break. I care about this and have devoted a massive amount of my life, my study, my writing, to at least wrestling with it.
Being alive and living together is complicated.
We all, as a species, live in the wake created by both arrogance and ignorance—states of being that to deny that we as humans suffer them is to admit we suffer them.
Bottom line: if you post your political opinion on Facebook or some other social media channel, just know that you are not going to convince anyone to join your side with your arguments unless they are careful, respectful, even-handed and … well, like nothing that anyone ever posts on Facebook or Twitter or whatever social media but for tiny fractions of the time.
Every time you post a political post on Facebook you are basically saying: “All of you who side with my political idea should click Like … and all of you who don’t agree are fuckholes that I am cool with pissing off in a casual one-click sharing kind of way.”
I know that is not what you are actually trying to do, at least, hopefully, maybe, not consciously doing it—some of you anyway. But if you actually care about human psychology and the reams and reams of research that has gone into social media over the last few years, you should probably at least know that you literally, by actual modern research data and by humanist experiences as defined not only by guys like Aristotle thousands of years ago, but by more modern thinkers like Dale Carnegie who wrote the continuing bestselling book titled How to Win Friends and Influence People seventy-five years or so ago—and it still sells tons and tons of copies every day—that you can’t grind people down to your political (or religious … or any other point of view). Aristotle and Carnegie both agree absolutely that you will NEVER convert ANYONE to your political or social point of view by opposing them.
Like, literally, the moment you challenge someone’s beliefs, the instant you tell them they are wrong, you have created a situation wherein you will never, ever, ever convert them to your way of thinking. You basically just screwed yourself and your cause.
You certainly won’t do it on Facebook. And, if you study these great minds who so fully understood humanity and the art of persuasion, you will see that it is actually impossible to combat someone to your point of view. It literally, psychologically, biologically cannot happen.
Worse, by trying, you are actually creating activists against your beliefs/causes. You make political enemies, essentially feeding the ranks of your opposition, when you post, because when you post your political posts, nobody reads them—like less than 1% of your “friends list,” whether they are actually for or against your view.
People are lazy. They read the headline, that’s it. Which, most likely, is all you read too before you shared it. That headline made you feel good, or fueled your social outrage, your religious indignation, so you “shared” it. Your friends who already share your opinions nod and go “yeah”—gaining you or your cause literally nothing that you did not already have—but those who didn’t already agree with you, well, they are either just pissed by your provocative headline, or worse for you and the cause, they did read it and now see how bad the “journalism” you shared actually is (which you didn’t even bother to do, since you liked the headline so much and your lefty/righty buddy shared it first).
So, in terms of your political strategy in sharing that, you just handed your friends, many of whom don’t understand where you are coming from politically, evidence for why your side of the conversation is slapdash, manipulative and unthinking. Nice work. With teammates like you, the cause is doomed. (Which is why Americans are all divided, by the way, because all sides are doing the exact same thing.)
This not only destroys the ideal you are concerned about, but it snowballs against you, personally. It makes it look like people who believe as you do are lazy, careless and willing to propagate lies or at least half-truths, and worse, it makes you come off as mean and disrespectful—keep in mind Facebook is supposed to be SOCIAL media, not go-fuck-yourself-you-liberal/conservative-bastard media. So your friends—people you agreed to be FRIENDS with at the start of your Facebook relationship—suddenly go from seeing you as a friend to seeing you as an agent of opposition, an enemy.
Worse … You and I both know you don’t actually do shit for that “favorite cause” you just posted about, anyway.
You don’t. Maybe you donate a few bucks here and there. Maybe if you are super active, you went to some rally two years ago. But mostly you just share the feel-good political posts, day after day, and then go back to watching cat videos and whatever on Netflix or your DVR.
So, my righty and lefty friends … the short point is: you are crapping on your friends, and perhaps even worse, you are crapping on the things you think you stand for by making enemies to those causes with your laziness.
So just stop.
Go join something, like, in person, and volunteer your actual time to a cause if you really give a shit about it. DO something. That’s awesome. But just know that if you share it on Facebook, you are being a lazy piece of crap and, worse, you are being a shitty friend.
Great essay. I totally agree. I actually did volunteer for a Congressman’s campaign in 2006. Basically the volunteer work involved calling people and taking abuse on the phone (when people didn’t just hang up on me) and putting signs on my lawn so my car and house could be egged and the signs could continually get pulled out and trampled. The guy did win. I didn’t even like him, I just want a change on Congress. I will never do it again and social media? Good for cat videos–everything else, not so much.
Cats, cleavage and bacon. Everything else on social media is pointless vanity.