Yesterday, I finally had enough. Three or four more appeared. I got so fed up with receiving Facebook email post notifications from a relation here in Britain that I went into the settings and turned them off.
There is a general election scheduled for June 8, when the current prime minister’s party may be returned to power or it may not be. I had grown weary of, and increasingly aggravated by, the incessant Facebook politicking that “Candidate A” is some sort of a national savior. I don’t vote here, but regardless I am not in the slightest enamored of that individual and had for weeks been simply deleting those emails and ignoring the posts.
I have never understood it. Why do family and friends shove their politics at others on Facebook? Do they actually think that they are swaying opinions?
Or are they looking for an argument? And if so, why?
I don’t read my “family Facebook” account to have politics thrown at me. If I want that, I know where else I can go. But as we all also know, it’s awkward “unfriending” a relative or close friend who refuses to shut up.
Thomas Jefferson noted in the 1790s that American politics had grown so heated and personal (and he was a large part of the reason why) that friends holding differing views, and accidentally seeing each other in public, would regularly “cross the street” to avoid one another.
Why? If they made eye contact, norms of good behavior then dictated that as a standard greeting they “touch their hat” or lift it. Once they did so, they might have to stop and chat. However, they did not want to talk because they feared the other would bring up politics.
And they had by then become so annoyed by each other’s well-known and loudly-voiced opinions that they could not bring themselves even to discuss the weather:
So divisive politics is nothing new. Neither is personal awkwardness and acrimony when it comes to them. And that’s merely when it comes to those we know personally.
I have social media friends with whom I do not agree with all, or perhaps even with (insofar as I can discern) most of, their politics. Naturally it’s easier to “unfollow” on social media, but I dislike doing that simply over some differing political opinions. Encountering other perspectives is important in life.
But we all also have our tolerance limits. Again, though, why bother debating? When has a Twitter fight ever changed a mind?
I suppose a good rule for ALL posters of political opinion to remember is this: Don’t assume that silence out of friends and followers constitutes some sort of default agreement. They may instead have groaned – for the 843rd time – and scrolled down quickly seeking the next cat video or another cousin’s holiday photos, or celeb tweet. They’re politely ignoring your carryings on in the hopes you’ll move on and talk about something else, and can’t quite bring themselves to “unfollow” or “unfriend” you.
So on Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere, both with those I know personally and even with some I don’t, I suppose in a manner of speaking I constantly “cross the street”…in order to avoid “touching my hat.” I know I’m hardly alone in that. In its way, it remains “1794” and probably always will.