}

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

My campaign survival plan

The USA’s presidential campaign has already been the most bizarre ever, something that belongs in a badly written novel, not real life. It promises to become even more bizarre as it rolls on, accompanied by unprecedented levels of ugliness and vitriol spewed out, especially on social media. I have a plan to try and survive it all.

The screenshot at left* shows my first line of defence: Whenever someone posts some political nonsense on their own Facebook, I click the little arrow thingee in the upper righthand corner of the post, and select “Hide post”. That means that the post will no longer show up in my timeline when someone posts a comment—and people sometimes post a lot of comments on election-related Facebook posts.

Similarly, if a friend comments on a post promoting nonsense, I can do the same thing and it won’t appear in my timeline again, no matter what friend comments later. This also works with “Sponsored” posts, though you have to give Facebook a reason for why you don’t want to see it.

If the Facebook friend posts a lot of political nonsense, it may be more practical to go to their page, click on the “Following” tab and choose “Unfollow”. You’ll still be friends with the person, but you won’t see what they post unless you make the effort to go to their page. Then, when the campaign nightmare ends, you can always go back and choose “Follow” again (or, not…). Obviously, this is for people you want to remain Facebook Friends with for whatever reason, because otherwise a better option might be to “unfriend” them.

This is only about not having to look at silly, ill-informed, or even delusional stuff on Facebook, and nothing more. It’s absolutely not about avoiding viewpoints one disagrees with—not even almost—because that’s a very bad idea. Entertaining viewpoints we disagree with challenges us, forces us to examine our beliefs and assumptions, it expands our understanding of how other people think, and it sharpens our own arguments simply by having them challenged. All of those things are good, so exposing ourselves to fact-based opinions we don’t agree with is a good thing.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to find and evaluate a wide range of news and views outside of Facebook without entertaining the silly, absurd, and annoyingly wrong. I actively search out resources that rely on facts, not feelings, and evidence, not personal hunches, grudges, or delusions, and those fact-based sources come from all over the political spectrum.

So, my social media strategy is merely about pain avoidance: Sometimes I’m merely annoyed when someone shares or comments on a post that promotes utter nonsense, while other times I’m saddened that people would fall for shear stupidity. In either case, social media’s toxic climate surrounding the US election campaign means I just can’t see anything good that can come from me joining in one Internet fight after another. Neither is there anything to be gained by seeing utter nonsense promoted again and again. The most sensible course of action is to simply look away, and this post has been about how I do that.

I have one other Facebook strategy: I no longer post anything political to my personal Facebook. In the past, I’ve been shocked by reactions to posts I made that I didn’t consider remotely political, so there’s no way I’d want to share anything that really was political. Besides, I have this blog and my AmeriNZ Facebook Page to share that sort of stuff.

For decades, I thought elections were fun, and I enjoyed the rough and tumble of honest and civil debate. But US politics have become so polarised, and social media is so toxic, that politics is no longer fun—it’s become the opposite, in many ways.

This election will eventually pass, but the silliness won’t end then, of course. I use this strategy a lot more during election campaigns, but the truth is that it comes in handy all the time. Sadly.

*I picked the screenshot up top because it’s totally non-political and non-partisan, it’s not from the USA, and I also wouldn’t “Hide” one of The Spinoff’s posts. So, it was a neutral example. That particular Facebook Post actually relates to a blog post I published in the middle of July. That post was going to be about something somewhat different than it ended up being about, largely because of The Spinoff’s post. It happens.

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