Etiquette (2)


I’ve addressed the concept of forcing your political or moral beliefs on others before (here and here), but I had a new one that came up and thought I’d address it from the other side: From the viewpoint of the person whose Facebook wall keeps becoming a political battleground. I mean, this has happened to pretty much all of us, I’d imagine.

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#smetiquette politics

Dear Amy:

When is it appropriate to NOT comment? Or when is it appropriate to not bring your personal political or religious viewpoint (generally by bashing views held by others) into every comment?

I have a Facebook friend whom I adore 90% of the time. Until she gets political on MY posts (I have no concern with how she conducts herself in her own posts – it’s her wall). I’ve asked her over an over again to not comment regarding politics or I’ll have to block her. Today it started again, and her comment was “And DON’T tell me it’s not political because it is!” I’ve never said certain things weren’t political, just that she is no longer allowed to weigh in on them ON MY WALL because of the way in which she does so. It’s really mind-boggling.

Flustered on Facebook

Dear Flustered:

It doesn’t seem your friend is ever going to change her ways. You’ve asked her not to speak up before, and that hasn’t worked. You’ve warned her you would block her if she did it again.

You have more than two choices here, however. The two obvious are: Block her. Or don’t block her. However, if you don’t block her, she’s going to continue to give you tsuris in those situations she deems political.

There’s another option in the middle that may cause fewer problems and keep her around for the 90 percent of the time you enjoy her. It will make a little bit more work for you, but will prevent you from having to end a friendship over something someone says on Facebook (and isn’t that pretty much the worst reason to have to end a friendship?).

Put your friend on a new list. Call it “No politics” or “Susie” or anything that will help you remember what list it is. When you post anything that you know will cause her to jump into the fray and get all political about, gate the post so no one on that list can see it. Better than just blocking a single individual, it allows you to add others to the list if you find them making things unpleasant.

All this said, I’m not a huge fan of locking people out of a conversation just because we don’t agree. But, actually, I don’t even know if you have different politics from the friend you’re referring to. I assume so, but I grow weary sometimes of conversations that get overly political, whether I agree with the politics or not. People get so strident and convinced they’re right, and everyone else is wrong. There’s so little room for debate anymore.

The problem is, as you point out, when they do it on your real estate and not their own. It takes it to another level, because they’re generally talking to people they don’t know – at least some of them – and may be taking a civil conversation outside the bounds of civility.

I have no problem telling people that I will delete comments that get out of control. And I’ve done it. Just because the people involved didn’t feel they were out of control doesn’t mean they weren’t. I warned everyone, and most people accepted my request. Those who didn’t, their comments were deleted. This doesn’t mean censoring (which, by the way, truly only refers to instances where information is “officially” suppressed. I’ve allowed many comments and conversations to stand, even if I didn’t agree with what was being said. Even if I vehemently disagreed with what was being said.

We need to allow ourselves not to get caught in a bubble where we are only talking to and listening to people with the same beliefs as we have. We do not need to allow ourselves to be subjected to others’ beliefs on every single subject at whatever time they want, in discussions we’re hosting.

Hopefully, your list need never get larger than this one friend. And, hopefully, your friend won’t let her 10 percent of the time behavior begin leaking into the other 90 percent of the time.

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