Another election year is upon us.  If you haven’t noticed, you likely haven’t been spending a whole lot of time using social media.  Everywhere we look we’re bombarded with posts in support of our friends’ favorite candidates.  More often than support even, we have messages of why we shouldn’t support someone else.  At best, these messages are logical attempts to sway opinion to the candidate or party of the poster’s choice.  More often, however, the messages are hateful, vulgar, and condescending.  Unfortunately, this so-called rhetoric rarely sways our thinking.  Mostly it just elicits a reaction ranging anywhere from a quick eye roll to all-out rage.

I’m not one to shy away from a friendly debate online, but I do try to follow the old adage of avoiding religion and politics in social settings.  Social media does count as a social setting these days, so be careful what you say.  Just like a cocktail party that might make or break a promotion opportunity, anything you say online can help or hinder future relationships – both personal and professional.  The Internet has a long memory; avoid lashing out in anger, ranting, or attacking someone’s character.  The momentary satisfaction will subside long before the memory of your outburst will.  I can assure you that no matter how well-informed and educated you are on a topic, you will only look hateful and combative if you participate in an ugly conversation online.  I can’t keep track any more of how my opinion of many of my ‘friends’ has changed due to their often uneducated political soapboxing.  Even if I agree with someone on an issue, the way they present an argument has a huge effect on my opinion of them as human beings.  If I agree with them and still can’t stand them, how do you think someone of differing beliefs feels about them?

I’m not saying you should hide your principals or pretend to agree with things you do not, not at all.  That would just be another compromise on your character, from the opposite end of the spectrum.  A good friend of mine stated it nicely, ” What I think people neglect to remember is that their freedom of speech does not constitute an obligation to listen on my part.”  I couldn’t agree more.  Another friend said “If you have an educated opinion and want to share it, by all means do so! That is the right afforded to you by our founding fathers. If you are just spreading negativity to push your own agenda, then do that somewhere else! No one on fb is going to change their political beliefs because of your constant barrage of BS!” This?  Not likely.

I couldn’t agree more, ladies.  I have friends all over the political spectrum, and fully support their right to share their beliefs.  Why is it that so many of us can do this amicably, while there are so many others that feel the need to make it into a fight?  Last time I checked, belittling me has never worked to change my opinion on a matter or even hear someone’s point of view more effectively.  As Desmond Tutu learned from his father,  “Don’t raise your voice. Improve your argument.”  If you must take your argument online, keep it clean and informed.  Don’t speak out in anger, and don’t attack someone’s character to further your own agenda, even if that is the way the leaders of our great nation do it. ;)  Keep it classy, friends.

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