So far, this blog has been pretty uplifting. Nostalgic and hopeful with lil bits of beauty – all that. But the name of our whole endeavor is Beauty & the Bitch, so this week I’m giving you some of the latter. This week’s post is inspired by an article (“Your Political Facebook Posts Aren’t Changing How Your Friends Think”) that showed up on my Facebook feed yesterday and promptly made me furious.
Facebook right now is a battleground – at least my feed is. Frankly, I think that’s how it should be. I don’t believe in staying silent and polite like Fraulein Schneider in Cabaret, keeping still and maybe managing to survive till the end. And though Facebook can sometimes be an echo chamber and can certainly skew our view of the world, I still believe there’s value in standing up and using your voice, no matter how little it may be, to proclaim that you are here.
Okay. I have a plethora of problems with this shitty article – let’s pick it apart, bit by bit.
1. The title is a massive generalization.
“Your Political Facebook Posts Aren’t Changing How Your Friends Think”
In fact, my mind has been changed by posts I’ve seen on Facebook. I found out about the Orlando massacre, which occurred in June of last year and during which a 29-year-old security guard killed 49 people and wounded 53 others at a gay nightclub called Pulse, on Facebook. I changed my mind about various friends based on what they said (or didn’t say) about the queer people killed. Their posts changed how I thought about them and, therefore, how I think about the world.
Further, one of my Facebook friend’s passionate posts in support of the Black Lives Matter movement led me to begin thinking critically about what it would be like to see people who look just like me murdered consistently and unlawfully by the police. My empathy grew as my political beliefs radicalized and sharpened. It was a pretty drastic change that so far has stuck. I may be a statistical outlier, but in my experience, the title of this article is just plain wrong (and is also tacky clickbait).
2. The numbers don’t mean what the article says they mean.
This article trumpets that “a staggering 94% of Republicans, 92% of Democrats and 85% of Independents on Facebook say they have never been swayed by a political post.” You learn later in the article that 10,000 Facebook users split evenly across affiliations participated in this study. Based on the most recent Gallup poll of party affiliation, 28% of American identify as Republican, 28% identify as Democrat and 42% identify as Independent. 15% of independents said that they HAD been swayed by a political Facebook post and this is the largest segment of American population. Let’s crunch the actual numbers of the survey.
Split evenly: 33.3%. That’s 3,330 people from each party (with some change).
6% of Republicans = 199.8 minds changed.
8% of Democrats = 266.4 minds changed.
15% of Independents = 499.5 minds changed.
Of the 10,000 Facebook users surveyed, 965.7 reported that their minds HAD been changed by a political Facebook post.
UM, THAT IS A LARGE NUMBER. Almost 10%.
And these numbers get even more impressive when you consider that Independents are currently the largest segment of American society (a fact this sketchy poll blithely ignores). Since they are by definition the segment most likely to vacillate on political opinions, a well-written (or even badly written) post might have a huge impact.
This doesn’t even take into account how extremely difficult and rare it is to change someone’s opinion, even in a face-to-face discussion. Getting someone to alter how they see the world, getting them to open their heart (or close it, I suppose) is so daunting that most of us are afraid to tempt to do so in real life. In a perfect world, we should actually be having these discussions in cafeterias and in break rooms and at family events. But any paradigm change at all is impressive.
3. There are many reasons to post beyond “changing someone’s mind.”
I mentioned the Orlando massacre above. When I found out about that I was alone, traveling from Portland to Nashville. Storms and delays during a layover in Dallas left me stranded in a hideous airport hotel at 2 AM. The people who were posting support on Facebook comforted me. Those who called the tragedy what it was, a homophobic act, made me feel less alone. Politics isn’t just politics. Politics is people. You never know who will see your post and be buoyed by your beliefs. You never know who’s alone, scrolling Facebook, trying to breathe deeply and not touch the duvet in a hideous hotel somewhere. You never know what your belief might mean to someone else.
4. People will “judge me” based on my political affiliations, which should stop me from speaking up.
That’s one of the big thrusts of this article: if you post what you believe, people will judge you. Well, shit. Shocker. As if we haven’t been judging people on Facebook based on their clothes, life choices and romantic partners for years. As if we haven’t been all Judge Judy about grammatical errors, ugly craft projects and friend lists since the beginning of bloody Facebook.
Would you rather be a quiet little mouse, disengaged from the world and afraid to offend anyone? Would you rather look back on 2016 in ten years and think, “Not only did I do nothing, not only did I not confront hatred and bigotry when I saw it, not only did I not stand up for myself and my values, but I didn’t even share articles or join the dialogue…on social media. The easiest place to be vocal ever. And the reason I didn’t speak up is because I was afraid. Of being judged. By my friend list.”
Whatta crock of shit. Don’t be a coward. You have power. This article, and any others like it that insist you should be quiet and sweet and “give Trump a chance” (is anyone still giving Trump a chance anymore?), are attempting to make you docile, fearful, and easy to control. Please don’t let anyone do that to you.
Edit: there is now a note at the beginning of this article disavowing the viral marketing firm that produced the iffy numbers I ripped apart in this post. HAH. Excuse me while I pat myself on the back and dance out of the room.
Edit II: But all the note says is that the marketing firm is sketchy. It doesn’t say anything about the rest of the article, which is equally shite. BAH. Excuse me while I dance back into the room and type so hard my fingertips hurt.