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Mud slinging: How to discuss politics on social media and keep your nose clean

Mud slinging: How to discuss politics on social media and keep your nose clean
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Mike Licht

Social media is a powerful outlet to share opinions and experiences with the world. Prefer one craft brewery to another? Throw it out there and see who agrees. Met Vince Vaughn at a Blackhawks game? That picture should get some likes and bolster your online persona. 

But let’s be honest, we mainly post shit on on social media to magnify what we perceive to be our most desirable traits: being funny, cool, smart, fun, loving, etc. It’s not often that a “Here’s me on the toilet” post makes its way into our feeds. While sharing lifestyle content is mostly harmless, things get dicey when people use social media to discuss beliefs. Regardless of how profound, rational or logical your beliefs seem to you, there are people out there (often friends and family) who believe the contrary with the same level of certainty. Politics are no exception.

Regardless of your political views, and the issues that drive them, you steadfastly believe them to be correct, and there’s likely no argument, especially one that’s introduced on social media by “Joe Blow,” that’s going to change your stance. If nothing else, reading contrary beliefs is going to bait you into digging your heels in and vehemently rebutting said post.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with standing up for yourself, but, like most things, discourse carried out on social media often (and quickly) becomes a distorted reality. The safety of talking from behind a keyboard (anonymously or not) acts as a megaphone for our thoughts. Actually scratch that—it’s more like a mixture of PCP and steroids delivered directly to the need to express our beliefs. 

In case an explanation is needed as to why that can lead down into a muddy (actually, that might be shit) pit that’s tough to escape, allow me to demonstrate:

"God isn’t real."

Now, how many people out there are immediately going to pilgrimage to the comment section to tell me to “Go fuck myself?"  To be clear, this post has nothing to do with religion and/or the existence of God but you can see how that comment would provoke an aggressive backlash. Being human and all, I’d have to perpetuate the cycle by supporting the original assertion. Next thing you know, egos on both sides are ’roid-raging and any semblance of a civil discourse has gone straight to Hell.

That example is relevant because, just like religion, people don’t hold their political beliefs in their hands, they hold them in their fists. The best way to avoid dirt and burnt bridges is by not discussing politics at all on social channels. See: Any advice about first dates; same rules apply.

Now you can see the big picture, but if you still can’t fight the urge to stump for your candidate, let’s talk about framing that can be used to position your views in the least controversial light possible. (After all, that pic of you and Vince Vaughn won’t look nearly as cool when you’re covered in mud.)  

Encourage discourse without offending people of opposing viewpoints. 

A.K.A.: Don’t be an asshole

It may be tempting (particularly to liberals) to say something to the effect of “Anyone who is going to vote for Donald Trump can kill themselves.” Now, this may seem extreme, but remember: steroids and PCP. Instead, think about what you’re really trying to say, and understand that there are people you know and like out there who may be considering voting for Trump. Instead of risking relationships with aggression, try something like “Although I understand that many conservatives vote based on financial issues, I personally just don’t think Trump’s views towards immigrants are the right direction for the country, regardless of the rest of his proposed policies.”

You’ve still made your beliefs known, but avoided your voice being mistaken for a fart.  

Avoid sweeping generalizations 

A.K.A.: Don’t be an asshole

It may be tempting (particularly to conservatives) to say something to the effect of “Anyone who is going to vote for Bernie Sanders is a fucking socialist pig” (steroids, etc.).
Try “I understand that the majority of us are not in the top 1 percent of earners, but I don’t think that I deserve to pay higher taxes to support people who make less money than I do.”

You’ve still made your beliefs known, but avoided hitting anyone in the face with a dingleberry.

If you’re not politically inclined, don’t interject yourself in the conversation

A.K.A.: Don’t be an asshole

It may be tempting (particularly if you couldn’t care less about politics) to say something to the effect of “No one cares who you’re voting for, go fuck yourself.” If you’re blessed with the will power to not care enough about politics to discuss it on social media, then don’t. Everyone, including you, will be sleep better because of it. Instead of your anti-political post, try: “Here’s a picture of my cat drinking a milkshake.”

You’ve still made your opinion known and if anyone thinks you’re an asshole, at least you’re of the bleached and pristine variety.

Instead of slinging mud at the opposition, simply be positive about your candidate

A.K.A.: Don’t be an asshole  

It may be tempting (to all of us) to say something to the effect of “Fuck people who don’t agree with my beliefs.” Let’s just hope you get the point by now: If you must talk politics and make your beliefs known on social media without deliberately offending an entire group people: Don’t talk shit.

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