7 Surprising Advantages of Facebook for Political Dialogue

You might think I’m crazy.

But I think it’s time we embrace that online political dialogue is officially a “thing” now, and it’s not going away. And I’d argue that there are some ways in which social media — Facebook in particular — is actually well-suited to dialogue. So here’s a list of advantages that social media can bring to political discourse — if we make use of them.

(This article is an excerpt from the guide, “Talking Politics on Facebook: A guide to social change conversations that are liberating, make an impact, and won’t drive you crazy.” Get your free copy here.)

1. The delete button.

No, I am not advocating that we post inflammatory things, and then sneak back to delete it.

But there have been a number of times that have I anger-typed out an entire comment full of ALL CAPS and (!!!), paused for a beat, and then punched that delete-button (in the face) before actually posting it. And I’ve never regretted doing it.

2. The chance to slow down the interaction.

A key for having good face-to-face conversations on difficult topics is pacing, to make sure individuals have room to step back and check in with themselves for some perspective.

And Facebook is great for this, because I can slow myself down in writing in a way that is not always possible in person. I can take a break from a difficult conversation and reflect.

Maybe have a cup of tea, get some fresh air, or knock some things off my to-do list. And I know I can come back and pick up the thread later, when I am feeling more centered.

3. It’s just me, my keyboard, and my jumble of thoughts.

This, of course, is a double-edged sword. Because I could use the solitude to forget that I am dealing with real humans, and smugly troll them from behind my laptop.

Or, I can use the quiet to check in with myself on what is most important to say, and choose my words with care. It’s not like anyone can interrupt or talk over me. So I can take my time to work out for myself what I really think and feel, and how much of that I want to share.

And if you are an introvert who — like me — doesn’t like shouting and cross-talk, this is a pretty big plus.

4. Many keyboards make light work.

It can be a powerful relief to step back, and watch how others in the community step in and say what needs to be said. It’s not all up to just you or me.

5. The built-in accountability.

Way back in the olden days, a lot of political discourse took place through the written word, in the form of letters. And yes, things have changed quite a bit since then. But some things have not.

For one, every time I write something down, it’s a chance to look myself in the mirror, and see if what I’ve written passes the sniff test. The fact that I am posting things publicly heightens my sense of accountability and pushes me to get clear for myself on why I am writing what I’m writing.

Two, a downside to face-to-face conversations is that we don’t accurately remember who said what. On Facebook, we have a record, and that can be helpful. For example, if I feel I’ve been misunderstood, I can go back to understand what might have gone wrong.

6. The time to reflect on tough feedback, before responding.

If you are really mixing it up on Facebook, at some point or another you’re going to step on someone’s toes. And they will let you know.

And when this has happened to me, my immediate gut response is defensive. But since we are not in person, I don’t have to respond immediately, except, maybe, to say, “I’m thinking about your feedback, and will respond in a bit.”

That buys me some time to get past my initial defensiveness and reflect on whether I think this person has a point.

7. This is where the party’s at.

Whether we like it or not, Facebook and other social media have become central arenas for political discourse. Seems like a pretty big opportunity, for anyone who aims to build dialogue around tough issues.