Facebook and politics

I have been talking (ranting) a bit lately about my disdain for political candidates and their supporters who would reduce LGBT equality to a political issue that can be debated. After observing emotions beginning to run high, a friend posted a link to my Facebook wall to an article in the New York Times about emotions running high when discussing politics online. Here’s my response:

This article talks about the good ol’ days when people had discussions in person, yet it fails to mention that in those situations we can choose which conversations we partake in and which we remove ourselves from. In the days of Facebook we don’t always get to make that decision before the conversation starts (as would be the case in avoiding talking politics with someone we disagree with), as people tend to just interject whether or not it’s welcome. I don’t spend time trolling the pages or picking fights with people or friends I disagree with, and I don’t interject on my friends’ pages to spark debates (the same way I wouldn’t interrupt a conversation in person). Rather, I ignore those conversations all together and I expect those who disagree with me to do the same. When they don’t, when they insist on interjecting rather than ignoring, that’s when the blood begins to boil–not because they disagree, but because it’s disrespectful.

This article rightly states that LGBT equality is a highly personal and emotional issue, and it does accelerate quickly when people have constant access to social media. It doesn’t matter where it happens: debating the relative importance of equality is a non-starter for me. I cannot, in good conscience, consider someone who views my equality a lesser political issue as a true friend, yet I honestly have no issue when they keep those views to themselves in my presence. However, someone who brings those ideas disrespectfully to my face can expect our friendship to cease, online or in person. (We get wrapped around the axle with the idea of “online friends”–all the term means to me is people I am interested in communicating with online. Losing interest in communicating with someone doesn’t have to be an emotional event, it’s just the honest truth.)

In reality, though, it has nothing to do with Facebook. If people have these discussions with me in person I have the same reaction. By now it’s clear I won’t vote for Mitt Romney, but I don’t particularly care if people out there will. This is not to say, however, that I think being a supporter of a political candidate defines a person. People are defined, at least in part, by their values and beliefs. If their values place tax policies and government spending above civil equality and basic human rights, that’s fine–but it definitely raises some concerns for me.

I can get along with anyone, regardless of their choice in an election. I believe people have a right to think whatever they want, and that everyone should vote their conscience. I do, however, question how close friendship can be when financial policy outweighs civil equality on election day. When discussing my equality as a gay American, one either believes in my equality or one doesn’t. Sadly, in this presidential election, one candidate favors expanding LGBT rights towards full equality, and the other favors restricting them even more than they are now. While I am extremely tolerant of differing views on most issues, this isn’t one that gets much leeway with me. When it comes to discussing issues online or in person, I will inform and engage in civil conversation. It won’t ever come to blows or personal attacks if I have anything to do with it, but I will walk away or do what needs to be done to prevent such discourse from devolving.

Author: Matthew

U.S. Marine Corps officer living in North Carolina. The views expressed here are my own, and are in no way intended to represent the United States Marine Corps, Department of Defense or any of its components.

8 thoughts on “Facebook and politics”

  1. Well said. I really struggle with this issue with a few people I know and with the public and politics in general. It blows my mind how others can persecute a group of people based on their sexual preference. Just because I’m gay, doesn’t mean I’m less human than they are. It’s not any different from racism against African Americans and the slavery issues! I long ago decided not to engage others in political (or religious) conversations where we don’t agree because most of the time, it does “devolve” into angry, demeaning talk. I refuse to go there. I bow out of the conversation and they tell me that they will “pray for me” – as in “pray that I will see my sins and the error of my ways because I don’t believe what they believe.” Heartbreaking.

    1. Gay is not a “preference”, Kat! The continued use of this word indicates to the masses that homosexuals choose to be homosexual while nothing could be further from the truth. The only choice that they make is when they choose to be honest about who they are so that they might live a healthy and straightforward life filled with love.

  2. Awesome post. I wish I could phrase those same feelings so eloquently. Unfortunately, my list of online friends has dwindled significantly during this election season and, even moreso, during the Chick-Fil-A broohaha.

    It’s one thing to quietly vote away the civil rights of your friends and another to post a picture of yourself doing so for all the world to see.

  3. I wanted to share that I posted about this issue on my blog yesterday and it caused such an uproar, that I was personally attacked by some close friends. I had to remove the post just to try and ‘keep the peace.’ I’m broken and worn out from trying to defend my political and personal views from others. It’s so incredibly frustrating and disheartening.

  4. Matthew:
    I concur with your discomfort about ranters and shit-disturbers imposing their personal fights on Facebook and in Comment boards such as this.

    It is a pity, isn’t it, how communication via the Internet seems to license explosions of vitriol and un-civility, such as you would rarely see in real-life?

    You wrote: “I ignore those conversations all together and I expect those who disagree with me to do the same. When they don’t, when they insist on interjecting rather than ignoring, that’s when the blood begins to boil–not because they disagree, but because it’s disrespectful.

    I too have adopted your strategy of Just Ignoring disturbing emotional screeds from these unpleasant people.

    Still, that’s not satisfying enough for me. I feel that the worst offenders deserve a public slap-down, no matter how bad we feel bad doing it.

    Let me illustrate to you why I feel this way with a little real-world incident that pissed me off yesterday while shopping:

    I picked up a few Rubbermaid storage crates at a local department store. At the cashier desk there was one customer ahead of me. I put my crates on the cashier counter, right behind the first customer. It was a quiet shopping day. But something caught my eye while waiting…a couple of similar storage crates but in a different colour, the colour I was really looking for. The other crates were about four steps to my right. While I stepped over there to check them out, in the few seconds when my head was turned away and I had stepped aside, a woman zipped into the lineup, pushed my purchases back, and began to pile up her items! Fasst Burrrrn!

    I try to live life with equanimity, always hoping for civil relations with other people. My parents taught me to always, always, always be polite and considerate of other people. I’m thankful for that teaching.

    But I truly believe now, at my grizzly old age of 58, that that recipe is not always the right one. Sometimes our voices need to be raised.

    So I confronted Miss Piggy face-to-face: “You know, I really hate it when people butt-in like you just did!” Piggy was all contrition and apologies. False contrition. OF COURSE she knew exactly what she was doing! The cashier intervened and told Piggy that I was clearly next in line, and she would have to move her stuff back. Hah!

    Relating this picayune anecdote back to your topic of how to deal with uncivil virtual exchanges, i say that some ugly exchanges – the most egregious and insulting – deserve the like kind back. I do follow your policy of Just Ignore, 99% of the time when I post my comments to certain Politics news boards I follow (i.e. Huffpo.ca). But that nasty one per-cent pops in now and then, and when that happens I’d rather fight than switch off!

    Don’t you agree? Even nice guys sometimes need to get mean.

    1. Will, how else do you think I earned the moniker of Mommie Dammit? While I agree with everything Matthew has said in principle, there is a limit beyond which I cannot step. Push me past it and I have absolutely no hesitation for taking a bite out of your ass. Maybe it’s because, at 50, I’ve just aged beyond the point where I have any patience for stupidity. Ignorance is one thing – it means you don’t know, and have the opportunity to learn. But stupid is another – it goes straight to the bone, is an act of will and one for which you should be spanked.

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