Rise and Shine

Are Politics Ruining Social Media? [POLL]

Mitt Romney and Barack ObamaYou cannot log in to Facebook without being exposed to some form of idealogical discourse these days. With the upcoming election on the horizon and worsening economy, political tensions are on the rise. Social media has brought issues like abortion and LGBT rights to the forefront, leading users to cry foul when large public companies take a polarizing stand in regards to a political issue.

 

Chic-fil-A has been feeling pressure from the left for the past week after their President, Dan Cathy, publicly acknowledged anti-gay sentiments in an interview with the Baptist Press. Prior to that, the Susan G. Komen Foundation was the subject of backlash as a result of funding for breast screenings to Planned Parenthood, the country’s largest supporter of abortion rights.

 

Campaign Sleeper Cells?

Political jockeying is coming from the usual suspects. The users on my friends list who have strong party ties get worse this time of year. The buildup started at the beginning of the Republican primaries, and will continue until after the general election this November. The worsening economy and the fact that people aren’t really enthusiastic about Mitt Romney has certainly made the stakes feel higher.

 

The truth is getting political on Facebook isn’t making you any new friends, and it isn’t improving relationships with the ones you have. Users already dislike the opinionated friends they have; they do not want any more. People who already agree with your political views will feel validated, but those opposed to your style of voting aren’t going to change their mind because you posted a graph of government debt that is taken out of context (a tactic used by both sides in this election cycle, and even picked up by Barack Obama’s official campaign accounts). In fact, I don’t think a crystal ball would change anyone’s mind this time around; the lines have been drawn, and sides have been taken.

 

Turn Off the Feed

Luckily, Facebook has a special feature just for election years that will allow you to rid your news feed of political rhetoric without unfriending half your list. Just hover over the button that designates the ambitious campaign supporter as your friend, and un-select the setting “display in news feed”. You can find the “Friend” button on each users profile page (It says ‘Add Friend’ if you aren’t currently friends with the user), or bring up a light box by hovering over bolded hyperlinks of their name in your news feed.

Remove Friend from News Feed

You can remove a friend’s politically charged posts from your feed without even leaving your home page. Simply hover over their name at the top of the post to get started.

 

We the People

At a time when collaboration (a key selling point of social media) is most needed for the welfare of the nation, partisan politics is ruining any chance that we have of agreeing on just about everything. Politicians are introducing bills that have failed throughout history, across the world. They’ve forgotten what is truly important, and they have forgotten what Federal Government is supposed to be. The original colonies united to provide the country with things that the people or the states could not provide for themselves. The most important of which was national defense.

 

Truthfully, there isn’t much else that the Federal government should be involved in. There are too many special interests associated with government now; too much power. Obama slipped up last week and said just that. A real constitutionalist would have agreed with him. Republicans instead twisted it into a statement that took the credit from entrepreneurs for the small businesses they created. Most of the rhetoric of both campaigns is focused on petty, personal attacks that have nothing to do with the welfare of the nation.

 

Since both candidates have adopted Facebook and Twitter as their new battleground, we’re seeing the worst of the conflict online. The candidates are both being careful, but the smallest slip up is instantly broadcast to YouTube and shared through Facebook.

 

Have the People Spoken?

I am seeing far more posts in my news feed that are outright declaring that users do not like to see political opinion and discourse in their feeds. How is it even possible that I’m seeing more posts complaining about politics than I am posts on the subject of politics? It’s simple: other users are showing massive support for their friends that are dissuading political discourse. They’re largely ignoring posts that are political in nature. I still see some political posts, but most aren’t replied to by any opposition, and there isn’t an overwhelming support by like-minded voters either. Most users just don’t like negativity in social media. It’s an escape from real life for them, not the amplification that the election has made it.

 

Needless to say, things are probably going to get worse before it gets better. How do you feel about having your news feed bombarded with political rhetoric? Have you unfollowed anyone, or engaged in the public support of a campaign yourself? Has discourse ruined your day, even once? One of the possibilities social networking presents is the chance to effect real change. In this case however, everyone seems to have made up their mind, and all we’re doing this election year is adding to the noise. What do you think?

 

 

Adam Justice

rel=author">Adam Justiceis the founder of Social Media Sun, and an accomplished web developer / online marketing specialist.Check out Adam Justice's personal website or contact him through Twitter .

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23 comments

  1. None of the choices fit me. I unfriend people that post blatantly incorrect information and stuff that can be easily researched on Snopes. Especially if I tell them and they still insist on being stupid. I don’t want friends like that. I hide feeds of people that I still want to be friends with that annoy me occasionally. Altho Im not sure why I want to be friends with them if I never want to see what they are saying. Good call on the small business shit…that was the most ignorant twist I’ve seen in a while. 

  2. Free speech comes in all shapes and forms. Papers, TV, radio,  web, etc. The consumer decides. Social media is a vehicle to deliver content.  I prefer the ignore button we are all equipped with.

  3. I don’t think enough candidates utilize the platform & the ones that do I feel will have a greater advantage of winning the race.

  4. Unless people are truly wanting to discuss politics and not just blindly push their own opinion/agenda, politics should be kept out of social media.

    • I like your thinking Tim. It’s much too easy to segregate posts these days: let average people off the hook, and give the politically motivated exactly what they want!

  5. I completely agree with turning off political posts. The thing is, during these Presidential election cycles, everybody seems to work themselves into a frenzy to support their favorite candidate, cause, ideology, whatever. They don’t post to encourage discussion. They don’t post with any thought ol listening to different points of view, Except to shout it down with their own. Political parties know this and gain, while the search for real statesmen is washed away in the turmoil. I think there’s a fundamental flaw with our 2 party system, and the politicians exploit that flaw every election cycle. No one seems to care about finding solutions, only shouting that they are right and you are wrong. Just sayin…

    • I agree Yordie. Nothing positive is coming out of this discourse, and tensions are only worsening on the national stage.

    • The two of you clearly have terrible friend lists. The pots I read and respond to often go on for a long time, with people exchanging views and discussing the nuts-and-bolts of why they hold those views. I don’t encounter people “shouting down” anyone else — and if I do, I stop having that person in my contact list.

      Uninformed people will regularly spout unresearched nonsense, but that’s as true about sports or movies or other not-terribly-important topics as it is about politics.

      Get a higher quality set of social media contacts, and you can have conversations rather than shouting “Nu-uh!” and “Uh-huh!” at each other.

      • You say, ” I don’t encounter people “shouting down” anyone else — and if I do, I stop having that person in my contact list.” The operative part of that comment is, “and if I do, I stop having that person in my contact list”.

        And that is precisely the point of my answer to the survey “I unfollow anyone who mentions anything about an election or states an opinion”

        Whatever point you feel you are making has nothing to do with the point I was making.

  6. Generally, I find political posts that run counter to my political views to be very annoying, almost as annoying as those I agree with (why waste time preaching to the choir?). Still, I read them, I read them all. Why? Because it’s important. In case you hadn’t noticed it, we’re in trouble. Our nation and its economy are a mess. Furthermore, the rest of the world is in a mess, too, and their problems are our problems. Thus, I find people who don’t want to be bothered even more annoying than those who stake out a position, even if it’s contrary to mine. At least they care. 

    • I can appreciate your views Jack, but I don’t think the kind of political jockeying and news we’re currently being subjected to is very constructive. It seems more like a reflex than any type of patriotism to me now. As a constitutional republic, America doesn’t care much about the constitution.

  7.  This same thing applies to any content, really. I find it annoying when I see teen moms I knew in high school posting about some drama they had with people on Facebook. I find it annoying when overly-religious people (in my opinion, at least) are constantly posting about how God changed their lives. I find it annoying when pretty much anyone posts the exact same stuff on Facebook over and over… Oh the irony of my little rant, right?

    But that’s all I find it – annoying. It’s definitely not any different no matter what medium you look at this time of year.

    Another interesting thing is that of the two candidates when Obama was elected, who was more active as a campaign on social media? Definitely Obama. Who won? Obama. Just some food for thought… The same principle applied when TV was first used in a political debate between Nixon and JFK. We all know how that turned out, right?

    No candidate will ever ignore social media and they will definitely try to squeeze as much as they can out of the lemon that is social media. This is especially true since Obama’s success with it in 2008 (college kids and young professionals win him an election, and where do they spend their time? Oh, social media?!).

    And regardless of the medium, people will have facts wrong or taken out of context sometimes… but dissuading discussion about politics isn’t really a way to fix anything. If you really have friends that are so close-minded that they can’t admit when they’re wrong then obviously just don’t even bother commenting – voila, problem solved! But discouraging and berating people who feel passionate enough to post on the content they care about is just rude and uncalled for, in my opinion, even if I don’t do it myself.

    • As an afterthought, I think it’s probably safe to say people could call any of us annoying for posting the same content. I know I do post a lot about SMM, leadership, etc. on Twitter, and a lot of people probably post pretty redundant and “boring” content. Don’t begin to think for a second that it’s politics alone.

      To answer the blog’s question – no. No, social media is not being ruined by politics. If anything, social media is ruining politics.

      • I agree with Jake. Everybody should be free to say whatever they want. If everybody is simply politically correct the world would be boring and innovation would cease. The beauty of the social web is, you can make it anything you want. If people are bothering you, unfriend them. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

        • Absolutely Mark, but you and I probably know better than anyone how much a controversial stance can hurt (just as much as we know how much they can help) public image and a business agenda. I know you advocate shaking things up from time to time (it’s one reason I don’t mind being candid in your blog comments), but I also would guess that you temper what you say as well.

          A fresh example that comes to mind is the recent graduate who published the post on Next Gen Journal about young people running social media. She had an opinion that she should have probably kept to herself. I said some pretty stupid stuff myself when I first started publishing online (I was just 15, but no one knew that, and it wasn’t a good excuse), and it’s still a battle to keep from being too controversial (like this blog post maybe).

    • Jake, I don’t know what your relationship with the Internet is, but being opinionated is very limiting when you want to reach a wide audience. You won’t see the top echelon of bloggers sharing their polarizing opinions on social media. Even though a stance against Gay marriage or against abortion represents the views that half of America has (at least when hidden behind a polling curtain), publicly supporting those positions has hurt the image of SGK and Chick-Fil-A. There are some figures that have made a niche out of controversy, but Bill O’Reilly will never be as well regarded as Larry King. 

      Advising business owners to avoid polarizing discussions isn’t berating, it’s good advice. I don’t see much discussion from opposing sides in this case. The only conservative comments some liberal friends will entertain on Facebook are ones that come from long time friends. It’s still a “we’ll just agree that we disagree”. 

  8. It might be your opinion that social media ought to be vapid and shallow and contain only posts about meaningless nothings (like 4,325 different “cute” things your kid said or more pictures of your vacation/your pet/last night’s dinner), but it’s a dangerously bad idea.

    Social media is exactly what it’s name says — people socializing via digital media. Wherever people socialize, they will discuss politics, because politics, laws, governments and corporations rule our lives. I find it offensive that so many people DON’T talk about politics all the time.

    Education and information exchange are the only ways people can make informed decisions. Posters, pie charts, graphs and slogans all offer information. Only a civics-impaired poor-excuse-for-a-citizen would want to NOT see such information.

    The fact that you claim to speak for all “users” is laughable. Plenty of users want more political speech in the coming few months. Why? Because we’re ELECTING OUR PRESIDENT IN NOVEMBER.

    Seriously, this blog post is garbage. I wouldn’t even be dignifying it with a comment, except that it is crucial to combat your anti-civics propaganda with the other side: Americans want and need to get more political, and they need to share their political values with each other.

    If we all just post more kitty pictures, we will never form a more perfect union.

    • I never claimed to speak for all users, and I withheld expressing my own opinion here. I did notice a lot of people exclaiming their dislike for politically charged posts on Facebook though, and thought it would be a good idea to poll SMS readers about what they think.

      The poll results turned out exactly like I thought they would; a 50/50 split with half the people for politics on Facebook, and the other half against it. Right now 13 people either hate politics on Social Media or would Unfollow anyone posting heavily about politics, and 14 people say that being involved in political discourse is more important than avoiding it.

      This response of yours exhibits the ineffectiveness of your approach though. You basically called 50% of people a poor-excuse-for-a-citizen. It’s poor communication, and you aren’t going to change anybody’s mind by posting rude comments.

      I haven’t ever removed a friend or blocked them for sharing their opinions on anything. I would consider blocking someone who doesn’t have the tact to discussit properly, and I think that the lack of tact in many posts is a big reason why so many people dislike political commentary.

      • I might not change your mind, but you have no ground to stand on saying I won’t change “anybody’s mind.” There’s no evidence for such a sweeping statement (nor could you produce any), and that same problem underlies your original post. 

        Words matter in communication, and such sloppy use of them is as damning against your original article as is the fact that you appear to think 27 people responding to a survey is representative of anything. It is not.

        Again, you’re claiming a widespread problem without evidence. That IS an expression of your opinion. It’s how all bad journalism happens: Someone thinks they already know what’s going on (that’s where “their opinion” comes in to play), so they report a story to confirm what they already suspected.

        Nearly all of the people I interact with want more political communication, especially during an election year — and my numbers are in the hundreds, to counterbalance your 13 people.

        • Sioen, I doubt you’ve ever changed anyone’s mind. Especially not with semantics and assumptions. My evidence was an observation that was backed by more than a thousand direct engagements to Facebook posts echoing the sentiment that they disliked politics on their Facebook feed – and the lack of those engagements on personal page posts that were politically charged. The topic was never “should you participate in politics”, it’s about posting politics on Facebook (thanks for changing the topic to suit your rant). Besides your rant, I’ve not seen the slightest evidence to say that the majority of people do. I approached this post objectively (I’m a featured contributor for Yahoo! in politics, and discuss policy through social channels frequently. I voted yes in the poll)

        • I was going to edit your post to remove everything that took something I said out of context, assumed something that was false (or blatantly ignored the premise of the initial observation), or was a self-serving rant that was off topic, but I realized I’d have had to remove it all (which I will do for fun, so don’t assume this is freedom of speech rant land just because I’ve left your posts so far). I’d love to see large scale studies that refute our limited polling, or hear alternatives to alienating Facebook followers, but you need to be objective (for your own sake and the sake of the blog), and tone it down. k?

      • Also, what DO we call people who refuse to engage in politics despite living in a country founded on citizen engagement in politics? What euphemistic nice label would you call them? 

        Because it is total irresponsibility to live in a democracy and not participate. It IS participating, by allowing a whole host of decisions to be made in your name, using your money, doing things you may or may not agree with, all without you even knowing about it.

        Let me be clear, because I DO use words carefully: I am not saying these are bad people, or immoral people, or anything else pejorative outside of citizenship. But given that said citizenship derives from the self-governance of our people, I can’t imagine a more fitting title for these folks than Poor Excuse For A Citizen.

  9. I Believe Adam Justice got sucked into a debate lol

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