Based on anecdotal evidence I’ve had a hunch about Facebook and political posts, so I decided to put my hunch to the test.
As I’ve watched my newsfeed, I’ve noticed a lot of negativity in most of the political posts I see, especially from people who bemoan the negative tone of the current presidential campaign. But I wanted to make sure I wasn’t just seeing things selectively. So I watched my newsfeed all day yesterday, and even went back to cover a full 24-hour period.
Here’s what I discovered:
Negativity is the norm
Of the 73 posts that I saw (focusing solely on the presidential race), 70 of them were negative. That’s a whopping 96%. In other words, they were about tearing the “other” candidate down and trying to make him look bad, rather than promoting the ideas and platform of their own chosen candidate. It’s not that you want me to vote for your candidate. You just want to show me that the other candidate is horrible. What’s wrong with this picture? Is there not enough good stuff about your candidate out there?
Pro tip: It’s always more fun to tear down than it is to build up.
A vocal minority
I pretty much knew this was the case, but my very unscientific content analysis revealed that the large majority of my friends on Facebook aren’t posting anything about politics. But there are a few folks who have apparently been appointed by…someone…as the voices of reason on Facebook. They like to share early and share often. I’m not sure if they are merely sharing everything from their own newsfeed that they see that bashes the opposing candidate, or if they are spending their time actively seeking them out, but I, for one, am glad they are there. It helps to have someone do the homework for the rest of us, and set us straight. For this, I am thankful.
Pro tip: Make sure you are THAT guy. If you’re not THAT guy, someone else will be THAT guy.
You’re stupid and I’m not
The way these posts are postured, they pretty much shut down discussion and conversation. They are written in such a way that they preach to the choir, and if you’re of a differing viewpoint, your opinions are discounted right up front. In fact, I saw several posts that referred to me as an idiot, a moron, and other more insulting and unsavory names. Well, not me directly by name. But you get the point. And make sure you use some of the phrases I saw: libtard, republitard, commie, socialist, nazi.
Pro tip: It’s important to question the intelligence of your Facebook friends on a regular basis. Not only does it encourage reasoned debate, but it’s a great way to counteract all those unicorns, puppies, kittens, and cute baby pictures we regularly see on Facebook.
I’m clever and you’re not
Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and other funny late night satirists better watch their backs; my Facebook friends are out to get your job. What they are posting is funny. A laugh riot. How do I know this? Because they tell me it’s funny, and then they use the comments below their posts to pat each other on the back for how clever they are. Thank you Facebook! Now I no longer have to search online for reruns of Beavis & Butthead.
Pro tip: Huhhh huhh huh.
When in doubt, go fringe
We are apparently not interested in reason and balance. We look for those things that support our preconceived notions about politics, and therefore we don’t go mainstream. A high percentage of the links went to very narrow special interest websites that don’t even hide their political bent or agenda. When someone from the opposing party does the same thing, we’ll call them out on it, for using a “biased” source. But our sources are never biased. Never ever ever ever. (with apologies to Taylor Swift).
Pro tip: The best and most factual “news” comes from sites with horrible fonts, horrible design, and pop-up ads. They also will send you a cool window cling for your car for a low annual membership of just $49.99.
Don’t let facts get in the way!
I took all of the posts I saw that made specific claims about political candidates, and ran them through the filter of fact checking sites like Factcheck.org and Politifact. Some may say these sites are biased, but I’ve found them rather even handed. Not surprisingly, more than 80% of the claims being made by folks in my newsfeed failed to pass simple fact-checking. In fact (pun intended), many of them ended up being declared as out and out lies. Because, you know, it’s not about facts. It’s about getting our man elected. At all costs.
Pro tip: By any means necessary…
Substance? What substance?
Facts, schmacts. As grown adults it’s our duty to judge the opposing candidate on important things. We mock them by making fun of their name, how they look, how they dress, how they speak. Nothing shows creativity more than morphing the opposing candidates name into something less than flattering. Or posting that picture of the candidate caught in an unflattering or silly looking pose. Judging someone based on how they looked in that one microsecond of time where they got caught on film is important, because, well, that’s never happened to us.
Now don’t get me wrong. I understand. The system is broken and there are times I can do my fair share of complaining. My hands aren’t clean. But if we really want to fix things, and we really want our candidates to run a positive campaign, we should do the same. Or maybe we don’t mind when our candidate goes negative. Maybe we’re only bothered when the other candidate goes negative.
Pro tip: When your candidate changes his mind, it’s called “evolving”. The other candidate is the one who “flip-flops”.
Much of this campaign is being played out online via social channels by both the candidates and their supporters. My little content analysis of the newsfeed on Facebook was done prior to last night’s debate, because I knew I’d never be able to keep up, but if this is what I found throughout the day, you can only imagine how bad it would be during the debate.
But must we really be so negative? All the time?
There’s nothing new about negativity. It’s as old as time, and can be found in pretty much every presidential campaign in our nation’s history. And negativity also isn’t new among the populace. What is new is this platform we have with social media. The same platforms that give us unprecedented access to businesses large and small, also gives us the chance to say what’s on our mind. All the time.
If all we’re really doing is giving voice to what’s on our mind, I think that’s a shame. That means that we have far more negative thoughts than positive thoughts. And I’m not just talking negative. I’m talking angry, bitter, nasty thoughts. Hateful thoughts.
Negativity breeds negativity. But if that’s the case, doesn’t it follow that positivity would breed positivity?
Over the next two weeks, let’s try something. Let’s take what my friend Geoff Livingston calls “the harder path”. Let’s try to be positive. Rather than telling me why my candidate is going to bankrupt our country both morally and financially, why not try to explain to me why I should vote for your candidate? Show me the positives of your candidate, not the negatives of mine. If all you can do is go negative, how is that going to convince me to vote for your candidate? I’m not sure I want any part of that administration.
Or, you could just avoid politics altogether. Just don’t post pictures of kittens or unicorns. Pictures of food are much more likely to win me over.
How are you dealing with the negativity on Facebook this political season? Are you part of the problem or part of the answer?
- New App Allows Users To Say ‘No Politics Please’ On Facebook Newsfeed (philadelphia.cbslocal.com)
- Social Media: Encourager or Enabler (inklingmedia.net)
- Just because you CAN, doesn’t mean you SHOULD! (allisondevelopmentgroup.com)
- How To Remove Political Posts From Your Facebook Feed (v3im.com)