Posting Politics on Your Profile
By Belinda Nam
I, like many others, wake up every morning and check my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds. In the age of the Internet, we (over)share personal content to people we are connected with. It brightens my day to see a cute dog video, but how do I react when I see political messages spread through social media sites?
Social media etiquette generally advises users not to post political content on their personal accounts. People say that political posts are annoying or that they’re sick of seeing them on their feed. The verdict is out: people don’t want to see political content on Facebook. However, data from 2016 shows that 62% of U.S. adults get news from social media. This percentage may even increase in the future since the trends show that younger adults are more likely to use social media than older adults. To reap the benefits of this changing trend, we need to change how people perceive politics on their feeds.
Because social network CEOs care about your user experience, social media algorithms end up filling your feed with people who think like you. Because of this, social media users were, knowingly or unknowingly, absorbing the political information they saw on their feed during the 2016 election, which only reinforced what they initially believed.
More people are utilizing their social media profiles to find news and commentary, and more people are choosing to share their opinions with their connections. Users said that political content is equally prevalent on Facebook and Twitter.
You are more likely to gravitate toward and associate yourself with people who have similar foundational beliefs as you, which in turn determines what type of posts you see on your feed; this makes it seem as though everyone in the world shares your political views. For example, Facebook’s data showed that “users have five friends with political views similar to their own for every one friend with opposing views.”
I’ve had mostly civil, sometimes even timid conversations in person about politics; I’ve also seen more in-depth, at times volatile, political arguments on social media. Using search engines, people can instantaneously research and find the information they are looking for to support their argument and dispute someone else’s argument. This can lead to more in-depth and informative conversations spread between many social media users, and the online conversation may be educational. However, due to the disinhibition effect, people participating in social media can show behaviors that they are less likely to show in person. In the virtual world, the toxic disinhibition effect can cause more hostile conversations because hiding behind the screen gives people brazen courage. So while you may opt out of calling someone an idiot in person for having an opposing view, you may do that online because that person cannot physically identify you in the flesh.
While many people argue that social media etiquette means not posting political messages on your profile because politics apparently do not belong in this sphere, we have to ask the question then: where do politics belong? Nowadays, people have more access than ever before to social media and are avid participants of social media. This is reason enough why we should be posting political content.
As a millennial that grew up with technology, I find it refreshing to get educated through social media posts. A Pew study shows that 20% of survey participants have “altered their position on a political issue” because of social media. This means that political posts on social media have changed 1 in 5 minds. It may be a small minority, but the shifting trends about how users are interacting with others on social media may increase this number in the future. While most of my social media connections share political posts that align with my beliefs, there are some outliers. For every five friends that have similar beliefs as me, there is one friend that has opposing beliefs. While I may not agree with what that connection says, his or her belief exposes me to differing opinions, which helps me get a more well-rounded understanding of politics — specifically the details of a divided America.
Nowadays, the shift in focusing on politics through social media should be accepted rather than rejected because this way, more people will be exposed to politics. People may become more aware of what content they are posting and sharing. They may become more aware of which sites are known for being objectivity accurate, rather than biased. They may end up researching the content they share and make sure that it’s not fake news. They may be more willing to consider opposing thoughts and beliefs to have a more balanced idea of politics. Most importantly, posting political content on social media will encourage the masses to engage more.
Belinda Nam is the content intern at NewFounders (formerly RISE). NewFounders is comprised of design, tech and innovative thinkers that believe in unity through problem solving. See more at www.newfounders.us.