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Connected Political rants are polluting Facebook

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

“I’m done with Facebook,” a close friend recently lamented to me over a cup of coffee at Youngstown State’s Dunkin’ Donuts.

“I just can’t take the negativity anymore,” she said. “The political posts are overwhelming. And what’s worse is I agree with what most of my friends are posting.”

She held up her pointer and middle fingers in the air to make quotes when she said “friends.”

“You can’t just drop in with rant after rant, and expect me to want to stick around,” she said.

“They haven’t engaged me on a personal level. “

She asked me to get coffee to vent, but also to find some strategies for dealing with the seemingly endless political posts and the sea of disruption the world has been floating on since November.

OK, OK. I know. This all started long before November.

Still, it left us to wonder what happened to civility on Facebook. When exactly did it turn from cute baby pictures, pithy memes and inspiring quotes to picket signs and bullhorns?

“When did everyone suddenly become a loudmouth on a soap box in the town square?” she asked.

As few years ago, I wrote about my resolution to be a better social media user.

In that column, I noted our penchant for being better social media users. To be better, I opined, meant being a more “positive” social media user.

A coffee in one hand, and smartphone in the other, she scrolled through her Facebook newsfeed methodically unfollowing or unfriending anyone who posted even the slightest hint of a political opinion.

“I’m done with them all,” she exclaimed (a little loudly, I might add).

Clearly, she’s frustrated. She’s not alone.

If you’ve recently scrolled through your newsfeed, you’ve likely read posts from friends who claim they’re unfriending friends. Those who post anything political or don’t ascribe to a specific political ideology get the boot.

The fact is, there are tried-and-true strategies for dealing with unwanted posts. We’ve just forgotten them.

The first one begins with you.

Are you mostly positive in your social media posts?

“Be the positive social media change you want to see in the social media world.” No. Gandhi didn’t really say that, but I like to think he would have.

“Try this,” I told my friend, “let the first thing you post each day be something positive.”

Rather than respond to political posts with your own perspectives that perpetuate negativity, offer a positive retort.

Say something positive about someone in your life, post an uplifting picture, or find an inspirational quote.

It doesn’t mean that every post has to be positive and inspiring, just the first one. Positive posts are infectious. You can inspire others to be upbeat.

And who knows? Your positive posts may lead you to cultivate new friendships and mend broken ones.

Adam Earnheardt is chairman of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Read his blog at adamearn.com and follow him on Twitter at @adamearn.