Pragmatic Perspective: Facebook and politics

Could there be anything more usefully pointless than Facebook? Not speaking for myself, but many of us waste hours on end delving into the far-too-personal information of anyone and everyone we know, don’t know, love or hate. It’s a beautifully disturbing thing, and we’re all guilty of such indulgence, but some more than others. If anything, Facebook can provide for some lively conversations. Whether it’s girlfriends consoling one another about their weight problems or the guys exchanging trash talk about the game last night, there is almost always something interesting to read. What I find very interesting when I’m browsing Facebook pages is the “philosophy” section, where Facebookers can provide both their religious and political views. This seems reasonable and totally harmless, but there are certain issues that can potentially arise by sharing one’s political views with all 1,357 of your friends. So before you go plastering your views all over Facebook, I would ask that you consider the following:

Know your political vocabulary. One of my biggest pet peeves is when I see “Capitalist” posted as somebody’s political view. Capitalism is an economic theory/system, not a political theory. I understand that politics and economics are practically inseparable, but one encompasses the other. In other words, being a capitalist and believing in free markets might be one aspect of your political views, but I would argue that capitalism cannot describe your entire political view. I suppose my desire is that, if you’re going to share your political philosophies on Facebook, then you should brush up on your political and economic vernacular before doing so.

If you can’t explain your views, then you probably shouldn’t share them. When you put “right-wing conservative” as your political philosophy, have you thought about what message that statement will send to other people? Or if you put “left-wing liberal,” you should probably know why you’re a “left-wing liberal.” For some reason, politics has become a subject that people think they know about simply because they breathe. If people don’t know about football, they’ll typically tell you so, or if people don’t have a clue about chemistry, you’re probably not going to hear them give their opinion on an important theory within chemistry. My plea is that, before you go plastering your views all over Facebook, please do your homework. And just so you know, simply regurgitating what you heard on talk radio that morning does not equate to knowledge. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

Be considerate. Obviously, not everyone is going to agree with what you might have to say on Facebook regarding politics, whether it’s simply your broad political ideology or a specific statement you make or an article that you share. I don’t know about you, but my friends on Facebook come from all walks of life and from many different areas on the political spectrum. I would avoid at all costs making a thoughtless statement that might offend a particular group of my friends, and if ever I wanted to share something, I would attempt to be scholarly and considerate. Don’t alienate your friends because of something stupid and thoughtless that you posted on your Facebook page. It’s not worth it, and, almost guaranteed, your statement is wrong.

Facebook can be used as a great tool in the hands of those trying to do something good and meaningful. Not a day passes that I don’t see something on my friend Zach’s page inviting me to get involved in a good cause, but Facebook can also be a breeding ground for inflammatory, thoughtless and mind-numbingly closed-minded commentary. In order to avoid such foolishness, I beg each of us to learn our vocabulary words! When tempted to tune in to Rush Limbaugh, read a book written by a real scholar with real knowledge! And when going to post something, please think about the ramifications of your post. Be considerate, and be prepared to explain or defend your statements in a scholarly manner. Ultimately, most people will continue to use Facebook as a simple way to anonymously stalk one another, but through intelligent use and intelligent conversation, Facebook can be a valuable vehicle to accomplish great things.