Despite disagreeing with many (most?) of my friends on political issues I don’t think I’ve lost any Facebook friends this election. Let me share my secrets.
Step 1: Empathize. Life is hard, and few of us are trained for political life.
Step 2: Listen. We all have the same goal… getting other people to agree with us. You’re not going to be successful by telling people their stupid. You’ll get lots of Internet points… but only from people who already agree with you. You’re actually making things worse because fewer people will listen to people who are apparently incapable of treating them like a decent human being (and most people outside the Beltway are, in fact, decent and human).
Step 3: Filter. (This is the big one.) You’re not going to convince everyone. For good or ill, morality isn’t about rationality for most people. So click that little “V” in the top right of your idiot friend’s post and tell Facebook to hide it.
Step 4: Relax. This stuff works by osmosis. You’re not going to change anyone’s mind over night (certainly not anyone over the age of 25). Be like the Colorado river. You don’t get a Grand Canyon of tolerance by refusing to trickle over land that doesn’t already agree with you.
Step 5: Step back. The government is about 20% of the economy. Try not to let it be more than 20% of your life. Your attention is scarce. Political life matters, but don’t let it get out of proportion. The Internet isn’t just for getting angry, it’s also for adorable gifs and pictures of pigs wearing boots.
Meta-intolerance doesn’t work. Take the worst case scenario: you’re Facebook friends with actual Hitler. You’ve got three options: A) Argue with him constantly. B) Unfriend him. C) Ignore his hateful posts and like his posts about his art. Which will do the most good for the world? Alright, potential employers and friends would probably prefer to avoid Hitler’s friends. But they’ll be more tolerant of your crazy uncle Rudy and you’ll do more good by being an occasional voice of reason in his feed than by stepping out of his Internet bubble entirely.
Most people are basically good even if they’ve got silly opinions about how to be good. And communication is hard. We speak different languages when we talk about politics and few of us have the tools to properly express ourselves. When people support politicians or policies you dislike, it might just be that they think that’s the lesser of two evils. (I’ve got opinions on why it’s sad that people think they’re “wasting” their vote by voting with their conscience, but I can hardly be mad at them for learning the fallacious reasoning that’s been foisted on them since high school civics. Let me add that if Vermonters had voted Stein and New Hampshirtonians had voted Johnson, then maybe next cycle we’ll get better options and we might push out of this two party system so many people dislike.)
I promised you Facebook lifehacks. They all boil down to this: tend your Internet bubble. You can do this with three easy steps:
- Like more non-controversial stuff than controversial stuff.
- Ignore and hide infuriating posts from people you’d rather respect (and imagine that you live in a world of respectable but flawed people instead of a world of evil charlatans).