Why arguing your political beliefs on Facebook is a bad idea

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Ever been scrolling through your news feed and stumble upon a political argument by teenagers?  Did you then hit your face on your desk really hard? I have. Having a political argument on Facebook is by far the quickest way to look like a self righteous jerk and annoy everyone unfortunate enough to stumble upon your little squabble.  I hope this isn’t news, but the typical Facebook denizen does not care at all about your political beliefs.  They don’t. They really, really don’t.  In fact, when you make that “Obama is ruining this country!” or “Romney is only gonna help the rich!” status, you’re only contributing to the headaches of the people who have to watch your intellectual discharge of a thought.  God help us if someone takes offense to your status and starts arguing with you; then we all have to bear witness to the literary mud wrestling that is a political argument on Facebook.

First and foremost the mentality of the participants of the argument is typically pre polarized and crooked. The entire point of debate is to come to a conclusion about a particular issue in an intelligent manner and maybe learn something new in the process.  The reality, however, is that people usually have political debates on Facebook because they want to be told or prove that they are right and that any who disagree are satanic spawn who will be the downfall of America.  If you start a debate unwilling to accept that you might not be right, you should at least have the integrity to call it an argument.  This “my side is the only right side” mentality leads to particularly vicious and unintelligent arguments because no one is actually debating, but rather producing a crossfire of questionable rhetoric and overarching generalizations.

In reality, no one who is arguing is a political expert, although you could never tell because their arguments posses the same zealous conviction.  Teenagers arguing about politics hurts my faith in humanity every time I see it, because they simply are missing parts of the picture.  Quiz the average teenager on the relationship between legislation and the economic viability of the United States in the last twenty years and you’ll probably get an answer that’s comprised of one or two sentences if you didn’t receive a blank stare.  Why? Because most of us don’t remember the Clinton era, and although the Bush era isn’t that far in the past, most of us were so young that we definitely weren’t doing socioeconomic analysis on his presidency either.  Unless you’re walking into a debate with an open mind full of relevant data and ideas, you’re not actually walking into a debate, but a violent mud-wrestling match of an argument.

Political scuffles on Facebook also have the tendency to quickly snowball from one on one discussions to larger, more inflammatory arguments.  Facebook is designed so that friends can see what their friends are commenting or talking about and easily join the discussion.  That seemingly innocent little dynamic is probably responsible for more facepalms than any other part of the internet.  Why? Because the ability to quickly comment on something allows left wing kid #1 to comment on right wing kid #2’s video and spark a mini presidential debate on the spot. (Minus all the articulate speech and well crafted arguments of course.) And even then other equally opinionated kids will notice and soon you have scores of kids arguing vehemently about concepts way over their heads. The other equally concerning fact about Facebook is that with two clicks anyone can show the rest of Facebook anything on the internet.  This leads to the posting of sketchy “fact” webpages, Wikipedia articles, and highly questionable YouTube videos that are then cited as “sources” in dubious Facebook “debates”.  When someone backs up their comment with a Fox News or Huffington Post web link they’re proving nothing other than that they don’t know where to find unbiased information.

The last reason a teenager should never have an argument about partisan politics is that you don’t pay taxes. Remember the whole “taxation without representation” thing that helped result in the founding of this country? You’re not taxed. (Unless you make your own money in a job.) Publicize your totally realistic ideas that would fix all of America’s problems when you’re old enough to run for office and pay for your own citizenship.   Very few adults can be bothered to get put in the time to sift through the political advertisement, increasingly polar media, and fiery rhetoric to glimpse a mere idea of the socioeconomic conditions in this country.  The average teenager typically can’t be bothered to sift through a single layer.

Teenagers struggle to have meaningful and productive political discussions in a controlled, academic environment.  Facebook not only removes mediation from the debates but its design only promotes the use of buzzwords, generalizations, and shallow but fiery argumentative tactics.  Facebook is certainly not the medium and teenagers are certainly not the deliberators to have these conversations with.  However that is the surefire formula if you’re looking to cause someone to lose faith in humanity really quickly.