I’ve long been a fan of the adage “Opinions are like a**holes. Everybody has one, but nobody else wants to hear it.” For me, this is nowhere more true than in the social media world, where friends and acquaintances alike broadcast 140-character sound bites about their cause du jour. I’m generally averse to social platforms’ unremitting layout updates, but when my more vocal extremist friends flood my newsfeed with dogmatic posts, I’m eternally grateful that Facebook now lets me: show “Only Important” updates from Greg, “Unsubscribe from status updates by Greg,” “Unsubscribe from Greg,” or Unfriend Greg entirely. With four different levels of shunning to choose from, I can gradually ramp up sanctions before implementing a full-out information embargo.
(Maybe this’ll get Greg’s attention. Are You Listening, Greg?!?!)
Anyway, I’m not the only one who gets tired of social media sites being used as political platforms. Sure, we all post our beliefs from time to time. And a measured degree of political posting might even be good, helping you vent your feelings, reap the reassurance of confirmation bias, and express more fully your overall personality. But I’ve that political postings work just like bumper stickers in my own Personality Triangulation Theory, wherein I triangulate your entire character solely by the messages you make public. The more bumper stickers (or their digital cousins) you display, the more conveniently I can pigeonhole you. This saves me all kinds of time that I’d otherwise spend getting to know you. Thanks at least for being so considerate.
I know my sarcasm isn’t going to dissuade you from promoting your causes online. If you’re going to do it, you’ll do it–and the more polarized your opinion, the likelier you are to share it with the internet. But when you do show your leanings online, just know that your friends are probably ignoring you. These are the findings of Social networking sites and politics, a new study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Here are the highlights, quoted directly from the study:
The study also finds that “the most active and engaged” political participants online come from either extreme of the political spectrum. (No surprise here, if you ask me.) “[Y]et their experiences around political material on SNS are quite similar,” adds the study. Users holding extreme viewpoints are also, “often the most likely to have acted for and against others on SNS,” and are more likely to be surprised when they learn their friends’ true political leanings.
So keep this in mind next time you want to convince the internet of the importance of Anarcho-Feminist-Liberal-Republicans’ Second Amendment rights. And if you see Greg at your next meeting, tell him I don’t want to hear it. I hope he’s not surprised.
Information quoted from the Pew Internet and American Life Project: Social networking sites and politics. Lee Rainie and Aaron Smith, 12 March 2012. Photo Cred: I Can Has Cheezburger.