Sunday, November 02, 2008

A Better Way To Talk Politics

Scott has an insightful post out about how talking politics can cost you (virtual) friends in a hurry.

From Shira's perspective, Scott's final assessment is right on:

In the end, while you can’t be all things to all people…just keep your political beliefs to yourself because you never know who you may offend or worse…who will be adding YOU to their blacklist.

That is, politics and social media (blogs, facebook, twitter, etc.) don't mix. Not if you don't want to piss off your audience, anyway.

Me, I don't see it so clearly. That's probably because I like to talk politics on my blog. I think there's a wrong way and a better way (I'd hardly call it the "right way") to go about this.

The Wrong Way

Think about what happened when Scott posted:

OBAMA Exposed!!!

and friends of his that are Obama fans follow the link, what do they find? An article saying that Obama isn't a US citizen. At this point, Obama folks are no doubt hot, because this rumor that Obama isn't a citizen has been put to rest multiple times. With blood pressure high, a friend of Scott has three choices:

  • Get into a fight with him. This is possible, but unlikely. I'd call this charge pretty extreme, and if Scott believes it, he isn't likely to be phased by mere logic.
  • Ignore the post. Possible but the reader is (a) annoyed already and (b) may feel that ignoring it tacitly agrees with Scott.
  • Unfriend him. This not only sends a message to Scott that he's done something wrong, but avoids your blood pressure getting raised in the future.

Given these choices, it's no surprise that so many people unfriended Scott.

A Better Way

I think a better approach to publishing political content to your social network is to look at it as an opportunity to learn. And to do this, you need to pose your opinions in a way that seeks to have people respond and even correct you.

So, instead of "Obama Exposed: ..." - what if Scott had said something like:

Obama friends - help me understand [URL] - do you buy this story?

An Obama fan would be able to come back and provide a link or two that they feel debunks this story. Scott could choose to believe or not the links provided, but at least the opportunity to educate was there.

There's a catch to this approach - you need to be absolutely, completely, genuinely interested in learning something new. So committed, that you'd be willing to actually change your point of view. If you're not willing to change your perspective, then either don't post, or post knowing that you'll be turning people off.

In this case, perhaps Scott would appreciate that Obama is a US citizen and can run for the position of president. Does that mean that he has to vote for Obama? Of course not.

In other words: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood.

An Important Lesson?

I bring this up not to beat up on Scott. For what it's worth, I think he's a great guy who probably got a little carried away in the heat of the moment. Been there, done that, and will probably continue to do so.

No, I bring this up because this issue of turning off your readers / friends isn't specific to just politics. Or religion. Or any other topic. The fact is, when you express an opinion, you have to understand that the people who's blood pressure you raise, are going to consider leaving you.

The bottom line: express your opinion with care.


  1. Anonymous6:53 PM


    Thanks for the post. As I state in my post...I was a little obnoxious and take full responsibility for my actions.

    I came across this today and would love your opinion

  2. Hey Scott -

    No worries. I just know who to turn to if I want to get my heart rate up ;-).

    As for the video - I'll bite...I got to the part that said that Barack Obama is in favor of infanticide and pretty much gave up. This particular smear has been clearly debunked.

    So, I guess, I can't give you much of an opinion on the video - other than that I couldn't watch it.