Lit fuse: using social media around political topics

We’re navigating dicey waters nowadays. With politics assuming as large a role in our feeds as quizzes and recommendation posts, engaging online continues to call into question what each of us believes and how (or if) we should express it via wifi.

There are all sorts of arguments for or against verbalizing political opinions online:

“I do business with my connections and don’t want to alienate a customer.”

“I can’t separate my politics from the rest of my posts.”

“Today it’s more important to stand for something than to stand for nothing.”

“It doesn’t change anyone’s minds anyway.”

It’s a hot mess out there.

The time for you to decide how you’ll navigate the social-political waters out there is now, if not already long past. But if you’re just now reaching the point where you need to plot your path forward, here are a few crucial considerations for you:

1. Decide what you’re willing to risk. Speak out or stay silent: either way, you stand to lose or gain something.

You may be thinking, “If I simply avoid sharing or engaging in political topics, they’ll never come up again.” That’s a fairly naive stance to think that your political sway is never going to impact your customer or your relationship with them.

Also, we aren’t just talking about business risks. Your moral compass, and whatever direction it points to, plays a huge role in shaping your motivations, your goals, and your results. If you decide to force your business endeavors in a different direction than your compass, that’s also a mighty risk to take.

2. Drop your assumptions. This one is tough, because we humans love to assume!

Whether or not you decide to allow your digital persona to wade into political waters online, you’re naturally prone to putting other online users into a box based on what you know about them—which is usually just a drop in a very large bucket.

Stop assuming things about others and using those assumptions when you interact. How awkward is it to find yourself typing and publishing a pat statement about why another person is wrong, only to have them come back with how you were wrong first

Instead, ask questions. Ask a lot of questions. By putting a ? at the end of your post, you instantly assume the role of listener, of one who wishes to understand instead of to attack, and of a learner who can be taught. (Also a very human trait.)

3. Own and stick to your beliefs. Once you know what you stand for, grab the wheel  with both hands and hold on for the ride.

In this uncertain landscape, one thing is the gospel truth: you will always encounter someone who passionately disagrees with you. The very definition of belief is “trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something.” Talk about a huge foundation on which someone stands! So if yours is threatened or you threaten someone else’s foothold, things are bound to get tense.

This is where research and true facts (as opposed to alternative ones) come in. Have credited research and statistics to back up your beliefs (to make your footing more obviously solid to others). If you can’t find the stats… well, perhaps you have another quest ahead of you.

4. Don’t be ignorant, don’t be an asshole, and above all don’t be an ignorant asshole. Yeah, this just went PG-13, but I’m willing to stand behind that statement.

You will win over exactly no one good if you are a jerk about it. I know, it’s very tempting to go for the zinger where you mentally (and ‘fess up, even literally) fist-bump yourself for your drop-the-mic comment.

But if your victory comes at the cost of unnecessarily embarrassing someone or, worse, ejecting them from a discussion when everyone could actually have learned something… what exactly did you win here? A momentary feeling of superiority?

Instead of going for the kill, think bigger picture and higher road and go for the change of heart. It may feel less satisfying, and the discussion may not even have a pat result for you, but you just planted a seed instead of decimating the growth which could be just ahead.

You can do this.

None of us is perfect at this. That darned human condition ensures we’ll always stumble and experience the awkward of interacting with other carbon units. But hopefully these general guidelines can help you put your best foot – or keystroke – forward with a fair share of confidence and, in the long run, who knows? Our world could become a better place for everyone.

How do you choose to interact online when it comes to politics?


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