Sunday, April 8, 2012

Mixed Messages and Facebook Politics

Mixed Messages
While a high school student in southern California, I saw the following poster in a number of my classrooms:

Of course, the poster is misleading. As someone with a BS and an MS in mechanical engineering who was fortunate enough to get a good job in the nuclear industry right out of school, I think I can safely say that my higher education has been more financially rewarding than the educations many of my high school friends received. However, I have a modest home in eastern Idaho with a minivan and a little red hand-me-down Nissan in the garage rather than the mansion and the cars seen here. The poster might be accurate for highly paid athletes, lawyers, CEOs, or Hollywood plastic surgeons. My personal opinion is that they can have it; I'm not willing or able to do the things necessary to live like that nor do I begrudge them the right to earn such a living.

Anyway, the accuracy of the poster is irrelevant. My point is that teachers hung the image in their classrooms to motivate us to obtain a college education. However, the political lean of Californian teachers in general and many of my teachers in particular was to the Left, which has been saying some rather inflammatory things recently about the kind of people who actually live the sort of life depicted in the picture. I have to wonder; if my higher education had actually earned me the lifestyle those teachers were implicitly promising (i.e., a cliff-side mansion and a stable of luxury cars), how many of them would now be accusing me of being "a @#$%*& one percenter" and "a rich fat cat who doesn't pay his fair share"? Isn't it inconsistent to believe that hard work and education will make someone rich while simultaneously claiming that those who actually do become rich must have done so unfairly by taking advantage of the so-called "99%"?

Facebook and Politics
Let me start by saying that Facebook is a lousy place to have a political discussion. The format and casual atmosphere just don't lend themselves to lengthy and well-reasoned arguments. Another problem is the fact that everybody who may read your posts is, theoretically, a friend. And believe it or not, you may just happen to have a friend who doesn't share your point of view.

Now, I'm not saying that people shouldn't express their political views on Facebook (I sure do). However, it would be prudent to make your point civilly and in a way that doesn't vilify or insult those with contrary views. Statements that begin with "how stupid do Republicans have to be to believe..." or "all Liberals are a bunch of..." may not go over very well. By making blanket accusations or by indulging in name calling or ad hominem attacks you may very well have called one or more friends idiots, bigots, racists, etc. Sharing inflammatory images, quotes, or memes can have similar consequences.

Remember that, although all the comments to your potentially offensive statements may consist of "right on!" or "can't agree more", it is not necessarily the case that all your friends agree with you. Those you've just insulted may simply want to avoid conflict with someone they still want to consider a friend. I don't know how many times I've found myself shaking my head at a comment made by a friend who has unknowingly said something unfair and unkind about me, many of my friends, or my family by making general declarations about all Republicans, Conservatives, Christians, Mormons, etc. Those few times I've chosen to respond were met by disbelief; they couldn't even imagine that they knew someone who believed such things. Facebook seems to have a way of creating echo chambers.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts with Thumbnails