Political views spur social Web site drama

by Rachel Engel
Collegian Staff

I’ve been wrestling with a decision for a few weeks now and have finally come to a conclusion: I will no longer use my Facebook to display my political feelings of the day, no matter how much I am provoked by my “friends.”

As an aspiring journalist, I am constantly reading and digesting news articles throughout the day. I read Google News as I blow-dry my hair in the mornings, browse the New York Times articles via the application on my iPhone between classes and enjoy the commentary of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert in the evenings.

Needless to say, information is a crucial part of my life.

And, what is Facebook? Isn’t Facebook just the culmination of your thoughts through a status update; a display of your life through tagged photographs and albums? For most people, Facebook is the online equivalent of their life.

However, despite the fact that news and information are a major part of my everyday life, Facebook is not the place to take a political stand.

Having graduated from a Texas high school, the majority of my 340 friends are conservatives or at least lean to the right for the most part. As a registered Democrat, my views are consistently different and controversial. On the night of the 2008 presidential election, my Facebook wall was filled with negative comments galore blasting the outcome and denying the facts.

When I dared display any enthusiasm for the results, I was immediately inundated with comments asking how I could possibly vote for a “socialist.” An innocent expression of my feelings turned into an all-out debate over politics and right versus wrong. Not my intention, but I don’t back away from political debates of any kind.

A similar occurrence happened recently after healthcare reform was passed on March 21. After spending the entire day glued to C-SPAN, I used Facebook as an outlet for my excitement in its passage. Once again, the critics came in droves to point out exactly why I was wrong for celebrating.

Even though I hate to censor myself in this way, as I feel it is my site and I can choose to publish on it what I please, I understand that it’s also a public forum. Every single one of my friends can see my updates and have the right to comment on them. I should know that when I publish something that might incite others to vehemently disagree, there will be negative consequences.

I will not stop writing about and making commentary on politics; I will just have to find a different platform: one that is more literary in its use, as opposed to social. My dad pointed out that I am the only one of his Facebook friends — though when you only have 20 friends, the same people tend to show up more often —  that posts political commentary consistently, and if I weren’t his daughter he would have hidden my updates so he wouldn’t have to read them.

That drove the point home for me, especially knowing that we share the same views. If someone who agreed with me didn’t want to read my updates, how many people who don’t agree have already hidden me from view on their Facebook wall?

Overall, I think it’s a good decision, though I’ve already noticed a downturn in my Facebook use, which is still good news.

Maybe I can go back to Myspace and post political comments. I doubt Tom will have an objection, as he is pretty much the only one using Myspace these days.

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