Thursday, November 06, 2014

Facebook and the Elections

Some insights occurred to me during the evening and day after the election. I realized that one of the big problems with putting issues out on the Facebook page is that it doesn't invite dialogue, at least not in the ways we usually think of that word. When someone publishes some meme or picture that has a particular political position behind it, it usually does not include any background information, supporting evidence or even any nuance of meaning. It becomes an "In-Your-Face" statement. It is presented as the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Even if we believe this is so, it sure shuts down the hope of dialogue- or raises the hackles and defenses on the other side.

Here's an example of a meme that was on Facebook (and which I personally DID share on my page):

The statements on this meme are from a standpoint of a liberal Democrat, which I am. I read this and think, "Right on! That's saying it!" At the same time I make all kinds of distinctions in my own mind such as:
  • Of course not all Republican voters believe these the way they are stated.
  • Of course some of these are over-simplified in order to make the point
  • Of course the GOP leadership may not believe all these, but have to agree for party unity
I am making a lot of individual distinctions, even with what I accept in the meme. I "know" that all the statements in this meme are "true" because there are enough instances in different places across the country where these stances HAVE been taken by Republican legislators, congressmen, governors, and candidates.

But all I or any of us do in a FB post is put the picture out there. Period. No discussion, no explanation, none of the nuances I myself think about when I read it. What choice do I have, other than to NOT post it?

Looking at the original site of the post, one person made the comment that the meme was "taking a faction and applying it's idiosyncrasies to the whole." Which is a statement I wholeheartedly agree with.

A quick look at any of our FB news feeds will see many of these memes out there. Do I want to limit my - or your - posts to the innocuous and inane, of which FB has more than enough of? No! So why post them? How do we use these to enhance dialogue rather than shut it down?

I tried to dialogue when one of my friends challenged the meme and what it said. That person rightly pointed out from their own beliefs that the over-generalization of the statements and/or the extreme nature of their approach didn't make sense.

I react the same way when I see a GOP or Tea Party-type post I disagree with. What I have done at times with those is make a comment to the effect that dialogue might give a broader understanding. Most of the rest of the time I ignore them because I don't want to get into the politics.

I am grateful, though, that my friends felt able to challenge what was posted and ask what I really meant by that. I don't think I answered that question too well, which is why, in the end I am posting this here (with a link on my FB page.)

So why would I post such a meme knowing the nuances I have already described?

First, because the stands taken by a significant number of GOP leaders in different parts of the country HAVE taken these stands and I am convinced personally that they need to be challenged. (Yes, Democratic leaders have the same inconsistencies and lack of logic that Republican leaders have. Politics is an equal-opportunity insanity!)

Second, I post these because I am inviting others to think about what they say. As a result, then, you and I have to take a look at our own beliefs and what is the truth or truths I hold dear? I know of no candidate that has ever been in 100% alignment with my views. If the disconnect is too great I won't vote for that candidate. This also helps me and others to define what is important and even why.

Third, I post these because I hope that those who read it and disagree with it will also understand that people of good faith and understanding can have polar opposite views without being "ignorant" or "unpatriotic" or "anti-American." Again those are the words the extremists use and not those that friends have used on my pages. I am grateful that my friends who disagree with me have been willing to dialogue with me in the admittedly poor medium of FB posts.

Facebook is not a particularly great way to do that. (Twitter with its character count is even worse!) But if we can learn to listen to each other, challenge each other with care, and be willing to listen to each other, maybe we can at least keep the dialogue going in our country.

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