Should you be “political” on your personal Facebook feed?

Another pertinent question, as we approach the midterms and their aftermath.

We’re talking here about your personal Facebook feed—the one that connects you to your friends, relatives, and perhaps some coworkers.

The odds are very good that roughly half of these people don’t share your politics. 

This might not be true in some cases. If you live in the heart of red-state country, and have no out-of-town friends or relatives, then maybe all your friends are conservative Republicans. Or perhaps you live in a purely blue state, like the People’s Republic of California, or Massachusetts—which is about as politically diverse as North Korea.

For everyone else, the odds are high that your friends, relatives, coworkers, and friendly acquaintances are both Democrats and Republicans, with some independents and undecideds in the mix.

Speaking personally: I live in southwest Ohio, which is fairly conservative on the whole. If the votes of my friends list were to decide the outcome of the next presidential election, well…let’s just say that some of you folks in Massachusetts and California would not be happy.

Nevertheless, my Facebook friends list includes some diehard Democrats. I come from an Irish Catholic background, and Irish Catholics are traditionally Democrats. Roughly one-third of my relatives voted for Biden in 2020.

I have a handful of high school friends who left Cincinnati after graduation, and moved to places like Massachusetts and California. Some of them, apparently drugged and brainwashed, have adopted the dominant political ethos of those places.

Others are liberal, despite growing up in conservative Cincinnati. The women in my Facebook group trend older, since I’m older (54) myself. Nevertheless, some of them are traditionalist in outlook, while others are Murphy Brown-style feminists. They’re all over the map.

And finally, I have a few Facebook friends who went off the deep end of Trump adoration in 2016, and have never come up for air. These folks think that I’m a liberal. 

Ergo, any political posts in my Facebook feed are sure to result in a Category 5 shitstorm. Especially in an election year.

I made some political Facebook posts in 2020. I never unfriended anyone, but at least four people unfriended me. One of them has since reached out to me and we’ve reconciled. One has permanently blocked me. The other two have left Facebook.

And how much did any of us change the outcome of the 2020 election, with our posts and comments on Facebook? Not at all.

To return to the above question, then: Facebook has many flaws as a platform, and yes, Mark Zuckerberg is a greedy schemer who wants to sell your personal data to the highest corporate bidder. At the same time, though, Facebook is a very useful tool for maintaining personal connections and reestablishing old ones.

As someone who was an adult long before Facebook existed, I can attest to this. I graduated high school in 1986, and college in 1991. 

Back in those days, when you moved on—from a school, a hometown, or an employer—you lost contact with most people. Staying in touch was difficult, relying on telephone landlines and letters. (And even in 1991, the art of personal correspondence was in decline.)

I joined Facebook at the end of 2010. I reconnected with people whom I hadn’t seen in decades. One was a girl whom I used to have “play dates” with in the early 1970s. Our mothers were high school classmates and good friends. I hadn’t talked to her since…1973! 

Wow.

I also reconnected with a close friend whom I’d worked with during the mid-1990s. We were separated when I left our mutual employer, and moved to another city. I hadn’t communicated with him since 1998.

Wow again. You can’t really understand the value of our currently interconnected world, unless you grew up in the unconnected world. If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know that there is plenty I dislike about the 21st century, and social media as the gatekeeper for so much of the content on the Internet. 

But the ability to keep up with old friends on Facebook? Yeah, that’s pretty cool, even if Facebook sucks in some aspects. 

I would submit that it’s foolish for anyone to ruin that atmosphere of camaraderie with posts about political candidates and parties. Ditto for posts about hot-button issues. There is a proper time and place to discuss Trump, Biden, abortion, taxes, wokeness, etc. I would submit that this proper time and place is not in your personal Facebook feed, when everyone else is talking about their kids’ soccer games, and their last visit to see an elderly parent.

***

I learned my lesson from 2020. I no longer make political posts in my personal Facebook feed. And I’m a lot happier on Facebook as a result.

At the same time, I do post opinion pieces here on my website. (I even have a disclaimer to that effect.) But that’s different. 

If you’re here, it probably isn’t because you know me from high school, or because we worked together in 1995. You’re here because you’ve read one of my books, or because Google took you to one of my blog posts. Maybe you’re a regular reader, and you check in here every day.

You’re here because you’re at least theoretically open to what I have to say as a writer. You might not agree with everything I have to say. (Maybe none of what I have to say, in fact.) Maybe you think that my blog posts are idiotic, or that I should be ‘cancelled’ for writing them. But that’s what brought you here.

On the other hand, you probably don’t care so much about what’s going on in my personal life. You don’t really know me, after all. The two of us don’t have a shared body of memories. You therefore don’t want to read anecdotes from my childhood or college days, unless there is a larger, more universal point involved.

In other words: you’re a different audience from the audience of my personal Facebook feed. It would be more than a little bombastic for me to drop this rather long blog post before my friends and relatives on Facebook, where short, visual content is the norm. It would be self-indulgent for me to show you photos from my last dinner out with friends (again, unless there is some larger point to be made).

***

But what about you?

I seem to have presented you with an unpalatable choice: set up your own website, or remain silent.

Not necessarily. Not all social media sites are like Facebook. Other social media sites are much more aligned to interests (including politics) and less aligned to personal connections.

I would suggest Twitter, or perhaps Reddit, if you want to sound off on a political issue. If you have more to say, you might consider becoming a vlogger on YouTube. 

Or—why not blog yourself? You can set up a personal blog for free on Blogspot, which is owned by Google. (Be careful, though, as Google, like all the social media giants, is prone to censorship, especially if your views run right of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.) If you’re willing to make a small investment, you can set up a hosted WordPress blog. 

For the politically vocal, it isn’t a binary choice between Facebook or silence. But politics and your personal Facebook feed aren’t a good match. Take it from one who found out the hard way in 2020.