“Facebook is the perfect platform for constructive political discourse,” said no one ever. Like, EVER. Even Taylor Swift agrees. But really, the only political thinking Facebook was made for is the kind you do when wondering whether or not to de-friend someone. The only thing I really want to know from your Facebook is who you’re dating, where you went to school, and whether or not you got fat. I’m not interested in your paraphrased version of some article you read in The Atlantic last week… because Facebook is just not the place for it.
It was literally not made for it.
Facebook originally started as a website to make snap judgements… like whether or not someone was hot based on a single photo. It’s come a long way since then, but I still don’t think it’s any esteemed forum for political change. “Liking” a political figure or someone’s comment is not the same as voting or forming an opinion about something like healthcare in real life. Facebook was made for broadcasting and disseminating likes and generalities… not discussing them at length. Everything from the small size of the status box to the caption under your photos is meant for brevity. Facebook is meant for generalties, not specifics. And unfortunately, politics is nothing but messy specifics. Facebook just isn’t the place to spout long-winded arguments and opinions. Logistically, it’s almost a misuse of the site, and aesthetically, it just looks bad to the eyeballs.
Facebook encourages extremes.
In this same respect, Facebook reduces peoples’ opinions to dichotomies. Left or Right. Liberal or Conservative. Care or Don’t Care. With such limited space, it’s difficult NOT to sound politically extreme on Facebook. And to me, this is dangerous. Because, in real life, is anyone really 100% Left or Right? I think people and ideas are too dynamic. Not that we should all become moderates, or that I want to make a statement about party politics, but in terms of Facebook, this extremism makes it difficult to respect others’ opinions (especially those on the opposite end of the spectrum). Rather than emphasizing commonalities, I think Facebook highlights our differences with very little room for real conversation and explanation. And this makes it hard to have the kind of discussions necessary for positive change and improvement.
Around election time, Facebook suddenly becomes ripe with political minded stati, links, pictures and comments. And unless you hide half of your “friends,” it can be exhausting to just look at. So herein lies another problem… the Fairweather Politicos. And Facebook encourages them. No need for months of prior election interest or doing anything other than catching bits of news by flipping past CNN or watching 15 min of The Colbert Report. You need not explain your thoughts on the Democratic Convention any further than 1-2 sentences idly crafted on your iPhone or typed behind the safety of your computer screen. While it can be hard not to chime in on something everyone else seems to be talking about, I don’t think one more lazy voice in a din of garbage will do much good. Facebook just makes it easy to spit anything out, and in terms of politics, this isn’t good. Politics is often about choosing your words carefully, and on Facebook, it’s a chaotic free-for-all… which doesn’t foster any serious discussion, political or not.
It’s not that we can’t have politcial opinions or express them virtually, but I would hazard a guess that most of us are not experts. Or even moderately so. And Facebook leaves a lot of room for thoughtless comments and remarks that you can’t really take back. It’s this spread of thoughtless politics, not politics in general, that I’m not a fan of. I just think there are better avenues to express them, and we should utilize these rather than leaving a string of provocative comments on someone’s ultra conservative status. Because I have yet to change my vote based on a comment… but maybe that’s just me?