Tell Me About It: Facebook posts costing you friends? Make a choice

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Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Question: Facebook is ruining my social life. I have always been gregarious, and I have always been politically minded. But I'm pretty good at having conversations other people want to have, so a lot of my friendships over the years have never involved political discussion.

Until Facebook. All my friends and family see everything I post, political or not, so friends who have previously been ignorant of my views have been inundated with this "new" side of me. So I have had some attrition of acquaintances as a result over the years, but wasn't particularly worried.

But now, my closest friends seem to be retreating. I saw a post this morning by a friend thanking our mutual friends for a great night on the town for her birthday. Nobody invited me. I have tried to dial down my political posts on Facebook, but I cannot stop talking about things I care about. I don't want to live in an echo chamber of people who agree with me, which is what seems to be happening. I would quit Facebook altogether, but as a stay-at-home mom in a neighborhood of parents who work out of the home, I need adult interaction! Ack!

Answer: "I cannot stop talking about things I care about"? Yes, you can.

It's a choice, so you can make a different one.

Should you, or do you want to? That's up to you, but it seems to me you have all the pieces in front of you, and now you just need to decide how to arrange them: Keep posting political things and lose friends for it, or keep the friends and lose the political posts. It's all about which one you value more.

As you weigh the two possibilities, I suggest you assess honestly what you accomplish with each choice. What does time with these friends add to your life? Are you having fun, forging alliances, helping the community and being helped by it, teaching your kids by example? Likewise, what does posting things accomplish - are you advancing your causes, changing minds, drawing out informed disagreement from people you respect on the other side of an issue? One thing you aren't doing is "talking." That implies exchange, which allows for nuance. Posting is a much blunter instrument.

This Facebook-or-friends decision is just like anything else, requiring honesty with oneself and a cost-benefit analysis.

There is, by the way, a middle avenue, where you create a list of friends you know to appreciate political posts, and post only for their eyes.

Reader comment: Just wanted to present the other side: I recently got off of Facebook in part because I was so annoyed by other people's posts. Even when the "culprits" were people I knew well off of Facebook, it still irked me and made me want to interact with them less.

Answer: That's worth thinking about for everyone using social media: Imagine a person you know. Any person, but mix it up - a family member, then a close-close friend, then a pleasant acquaintance. Now take this thing you're about to post, and imagine saying it out loud to that person's face. Would you do it? Standards that change with the platform = trouble.

 


tellme@washpost.com.

Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.