The presidential race seems to be heating up earlier than it has in the past. My Facebook page is covered on a daily basis with comments and photos and articles about the election and candidates and various political views. Just the other day, I engaged in a little debate with a friend of mine over the topic of Planned Parenthood and whether or not it should be defunded. The discussion started after I posted an article discussing whether or not any particular candidate "won" the Republican debate and the fact that the person some were saying had won it had gotten a few of her facts wrong. (Minor detail, right?)
The debate between my friend and I was engaging and interesting and not at all upsetting. I have known him for almost 20 years and have always known him to be an honest and "stand up" guy. We might not agree on a few things politically, but I still respect him and appreciate his thoughts and opinions. During the evening, other friends posted various comments, either in response to my debate with my friend, or in response to the article. It was while reading some of those comments that I decided to post a few rules about any political debates that might take place on my social media over the next year or so. Feel free to institute some of these rules on your own pages, or make up and institute your own.
One: If we are Facebook friends, we likely have a history together. I don't let just anyone onto my page and I'm not friends with the whole world. That means that we have some kind of connection, whether through school or family or work. (Although, I do not use my Facebook page for networking, so if I know you professionally and you are a friend on Facebook, that is because I consider you a personal friend as well. Yes, you can be happy about that.) All that being said, please do not take our relationship for granted. I have allowed you into my space because I like you on a personal level and respect you. I respect that we may have different political or religious views or beliefs and I have allowed you into my space in spite of those differences. Please respect my space and act accordingly.
Two: Stay on topic. I am happy to engage in debate on various topics that may appear on my page from time to time. But if I am discussing why there should not be a tax on large cola drinks, please do not chime in to tell me that you think marshmallow fluff should be outlawed. Please stay on topic.
Three: Please avoid sweeping generalizations. What are "sweeping generalizations"? Those statements in which you claim that someone "always" or "never" does something, or that you try to convince me that you are right 100% of the time. Nothing in this world is absolute (except death and taxes.) If you have any sense at all, you can likely make your point without those sweeping generalizations. One exception to this rule - if you have scientific data to back it up, go for it. But please provide citations in your footnotes.
Four: I get the first word and the last word. I'm borrowing this one from my friend who I debated with. He raised it and I liked it, so I'm borrowing it. I generally do not care if I get the last word in a discussion, but as he mentioned, this is my page. So if I raise the topic, please allow me the courtesy of having the last word on my own page. I'll afford you the same courtesy.
Five: No need for personal attacks - on me or the candidates/ subject of the topic. Yes, politics can be very emotional and some of these are hot button issues. But that does not give you leave to attack me personally, or attack the candidates. Yes, Donald Trump's hair is crazy and his skin color looks like it was created in a bottle. But those kinds of observations are not really appropriate responses to arguments on policy. (Just take a page from Donald's campaign for this one.) Caveat - from time to time, I may post an article or photo that specifically addresses someone's look or state of dress or hairstyle, etc. In those instances, discussion of the subject of the photo/ article/etc. is appropriate and encouraged. Unless it's a discussion of how I'm dressed. And then you have to be nice.
Six: Don't tell me I'm wrong. Seriously, see number 1. You are my friend in spite of any differing personal, religious or political views we might have. That does not mean that we will agree on everything. In fact, I'm telling you right now, we won't agree on everything. We can still debate issues and topics. But please do not expect to gain any ground by telling me I'm wrong. Even if I am factually wrong, (which I highly doubt would actually happen), you're not allowed to tell me that. But by all means, expect me to tell you when you are being a raving idiot.
Seven: FACT CHECK. This is a big one, folks. If you want to debate me on something, please make sure to do your research. I will try and do the same. In any situation where I haven't had the time to research a point fully, I will let you know. Please do not come to my page expecting to get into a debate with me about something and not fact check. (See most recent Republican debate for examples on how to make claims without fact checking, and don't do it.)
Eight: Don't expect miracles. If you plan to engage me in a debate and make me change my mind, just turn away right now. I can tell you with almost 100% certainty (see what I did there?) that I will not change my mind, just as you will not change yours. Please feel free to explain to me why you believe your position is correct or superior. Cite examples, give me research and facts, tell me why you have the better position. I may concede a point, I may agree with you in part while disagreeing with you on other parts. But at the end of the day, you are probably not going to change my mind. And without a doubt, you will not get me to change my political affiliation. Similarly, I won't try to get you to come over to the Dark Side.
During the last presidential election, I basically ignored most of my friends' political posts. I never blocked or unfriended anyone, despite some of my friends having very outspoken views on certain topics or candidates. This election is shaping up to be a bit more interesting and certainly has people talking with several potentially volatile issues. I've decided that if I can't "beat" them by ignoring it, I'll join them - but on my terms. Oh, and one final thought. If you post something and I choose not to respond, don't automatically assume that you "won" anything, and don't assume that you were right. It could just be that I turned away from Facebook to live my life (get dinner for kids, put them to bed, go get my nails done, get a massage, read a book.... basically, live life.) If I feel that it is important enough to comment on at a later time, when I'm back in the social media world, I will. Then again, I may just feel like I've exhausted my own dialog on the topic and I'm done. Like I said, don't assume anything by it.