Political Posts — Just Don’t

Facebook would seem like the perfect platform to share political views. It isn’t.

Let me explain why your political posts aren’t going to convince anyone of anything.

Facebook is in the business of making money, not in the business of trying to bring the world together. 

The longer you stay on Facebook, the more ads you’re exposed to and the more money Facebook makes. It’s pretty straightforward: in order to keep you on their site, Facebook has learned to give you what it is that you want to see. They’ve also learned that offering up posts that you disagree with, political views that make you see red, cause people to log off and stop logging on to Facebook. 

Contrary to what most political activists might believe, most people don’t actually enjoy arguments, name calling and insults (which is what political posts inevitably turn into). Bottom line is that if you support candidate X and don’t like candidate Y, Facebook isn’t going to display your posts to those who support Y and don’t like X. It’s as simple as that.

Want to blame Facebook for a sly piece of marketing? Don’t.

Facebook knows what you want because you tell it what you want: You click on certain articles, people and videos. Facebook then serves up more of the same. You begin to see only the content you like and agree with, and nothing else.

This is called confirmation bias. What you have unconsciously “liked” on Facebook reinforces what you already think is true.

The repercussions are rather important. By far the largest number of responses you’re going to get from your political post, for example, will come from people who already agree with you because that’s the demographic Facebook is serving. Those you’re hoping to sway and convince with your brilliant musings are, for the most part, not seeing anything you’ve written.

It also means that we can easily start to believe that everyone sees the world like we do (after all, most people agree with my post). It’s akin to physically walking down to your party’s political caucus office and complaining about the opponent’s views and policies; you won’t be surprised that people tend to agree with you.

If you do manage to reach someone who doesn’t agree with what you have to say, the odds of them changing their minds is close to zero. I won’t rehash something that I covered in a past column (“You Can’t Change My Mind,” KP News July 2017), but the gist is that we really don’t change our minds even in the face of overwhelming evidence. We find a way to explain away the evidence instead, especially if that evidence is presented in a loud and obnoxious way (yes, you can tell when people are yelling, even on Facebook).

No one likes to be insulted, threatened or ridiculed. You might agree with me about this and you might be extremely respectful in the way you share your views on Facebook or elsewhere, but you don’t control those who are going to read your post and respond. If you have spent any time at all on social media you have witnessed a seemingly innocent post turn into a gladiator arena where people call each other the vilest things. You know that you don’t like it when others treat your views that way so don’t subject your friends to it.

Rob Vajko lives in Gig Harbor.

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