Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Why Facebook is Terrible: Election Edition

I hate this election.

First of all, a little background information: I do not belong to a political party. I’m registered to vote as a Non Affiliate. People in fairly conservative southern Nevada consider me—as I was known to some people in high school—“a hippie.” People at the bleeding-heart liberal University of Oregon pretty much consider me Rush Limbaugh.

So in general, I’d say I’m pretty moderate when it comes to politics. On some issues I lean to the right, and on others (probably a slight majority) to the left. Unlike my cocky teenage years, nowadays I’m way more interested in reading and listening to what others have to say about politics than stating opinions myself. I like debates—legitimate, formal debates—in which intelligent people with different points of view talk about the issues facing our world. I get excited about politics, and I’ve always been that way.

But for some reason, this year’s election has consistently been bringing my blood to a boiling point. For weeks I wasn’t able to figure out why, until I realized the culprit…


Here we go…ladies and gentlemen, I hate to break it to you, but Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are both just dudes. Trust me on this. It’s cool that Obama likes Jay-Z. I would probably hang out with him, but I don’t think he’s been a very impressive president. And Romney is weird and aloof in interviews but he seems nice enough, I guess. Like an overly friendly neighbor that’s always inviting you over for a traditional Mormon Jell-O-based salad. I have no doubt that each of them will try his best to do a good job as President—it always amuses me when people accuse presidents of deliberately trying to “destroy America,” like that makes even a shred of sense—but he’ll be chewed up and spat out by the media and by other branches of government just like the last 43 have. By no means am I enamored by either of these men and their platforms—in fact, they’ve both sold their souls to Super PACs anyway—but I’m just saying, I kinda feel for the next guy who has volunteered to be burned in effigy around the world.

I know it sounds like I am oversimplifying this issue, but unfortunately, I have lost faith in many components of our political system and don’t have total confidence that either candidate can change it on his or her own. I look back at all the juvenile things I said about George W. Bush (because I was, well, an actual juvenile when he was in office) and the foolish excitement I had when Obama got elected and shake my head. In many ways I feel like the presidential races the two-party system gives us are consistently just choices between the lesser of two mediocres. But that’s a whole different post…

Our candidates for President, via South Park.

You can see why I struggle to identify with people who believe that if one candidate gets elected over the other then America will burst into flames and we’ll either go 300 years back in time or become a Communist state. Many of my friends and relatives are all frothing at the mouth over this election, not only constantly plugging their own candidate choice but (more often) viciously demonizing his opposition. Most of this, I realized, is taking place on Facebook. It’s gotten to the point where every time I log in, I brace myself for a flood of melodramatic, patronizing propaganda from both my liberal and conservative friends. (I just want to talk about football and look at memes in peace, people!!!) But why is talking politics on Facebook so bothersome?

Because your Facebook friends added you because they are involved in your life at some level, because they want a forum in which to be notified about good or bad news you may want to share, because they have made some sort of real-life investment in you. Think of all the types of people you have on your friends list: relatives old and young, co-workers, teammates, new friends you don’t know much about, old friends you know too much about, that weird guy in your dorm, old babysitters, bosses, neighbors, hairdressers, doctors, that chick you don’t actually like but her life is such a hot mess that you don’t delete her just for the entertainment, etc. But think deeper than that; all of your friends are different and have different value systems. Some may be on welfare. Some may have been ripped off by the government. Some may have been raped. Some may have been falsely accused of rape. Some have had their faith in God broken, or never had it at all. Some are deeply religious. The list goes on and on.

Imagine your list of Facebook friends as a banquet hall filled with people. Would you, assuming you are not completely socially retarded (in that case, please stop reading this because it is a pointless exercise), waltz into that banquet hall and announce, “PAUL RYAN IS GOING TO FORCIBLY IMPREGNATE EVERY WOMAN, AND MITT ROMNEY WILL BRAINWASH THOSE CHILDREN INTO JOINING MORMONISM!!! VOTE OBAMA 2012!” or, “OBAMA WANTS TO SEIZE ALL OF YOUR WEAPONS, ENSLAVE WHITE PEOPLE, AND HOUSE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS IN OUR HOMES!!! VOTE ROMNEY 2012!”

Think about it…we all behave differently in different social situations. There’s a reason you don’t talk about politics (or religion or sex, as the saying goes) at a dinner party: You don’t truly know your audience. You don’t know who you might be offending by spouting your mouth on “how it oughta be.” You can’t know that someone, who just wants to know a little about you and your life, shares your view of the world and won’t be disgusted by your audacity for a reason that you just can’t know. Don’t preach about your values—liberal or conservative—in a forum where they don’t belong. Don’t put others in that position where they end up resenting you for the things you say. Just worry about yourself! Be nice to people, study the candidates, vote for who you like, and then shut up. Let the candidates and their staffs campaign for themselves; that’s not your job, all you’re doing is riling everyone up. (And probably making them disagree with you more.)

In summary, if you post about your political views on Facebook, you are rude. I hoped I have adequately explained why. So many of my friends have picked up this habit that, starting September 8, I’m steering clear of my account until the election is over—unless I get my Peace Corps assignment, find a really funny meme to light up y’all’s day, or if Oregon beats USC so I can brag (hey, a girl can dream). If you want to keep in touch, follow me on Twitter or, I dunno, CALL OR TEXT ME ON THE TELEPHONE DEVICE like a normal person.

Speaking of which, my advice to people who DO want to express their political views online: get a Twitter account! Twitter is amazing; it is like Facebook but faster, more global, and—best of all—less personal. I don’t know half the people that follow me; they follow me because they like the stuff I say. Anyone who doesn’t like the stuff I say doesn’t have to follow me, unlike the unspoken stigma that it’s impolite not to Facebook-friend someone you know in real life.

Or better yet, get A BLOG so you can rant in as many characters as you want! :)

Happy politicking, everyone.