I’ve only unfriended one person on Facebook, and he had it coming. It was before the last election, and Misguided Fool (not his real name) posted a steady stream of mean-spirited phooey. I realize that one person’s phooey is another person’s enlightened entertainment, but civilized people of all political persuasions should recognize mean when they see it.
I put up with Misguided’s venomous drivel for a long time because, not being especially Facebook savvy, I thought Mark Zuckerberg might send him a message saying, “Dorothy thinks you’re a dolt, and she doesn’t want to be your friend anymore.”
But then one day, Misguided shared a doctored photo of a politician’s family member that was as idiotic as it was cruel. His comment was, “Photos don’t lie.”
That did it. I started typing. “Haven’t you ever heard of Photoshop? Maybe you should try it on your picture. Even you might look intelligent with Photoshop.”
Then I sat back, took a breath and deleted every word. And I’m glad I did. I see Misguided in the real world occasionally, and it might be awkward if I’d told him that he looks as witless as he apparently is. I unfriended him instead, but only after determining that Facebook wouldn’t tell him I did it.
But Misguided isn’t the only wackadoodle out there. Unless I take a hiatus from Facebook, I’ll have to deal with others like him in the upcoming campaign. More importantly, I’ll have to deal with me.
Facebook is a battleground in the civil war that is a modern political campaign. Militaries have rules of engagement, and in preparation for the upcoming battle, I’m sharing mine.
1) I refuse to indulge in Last Worditus. Last Worditus is what happens when we see a post from someone who is deluded, misinformed and as wrong as a tuxedo with tennis shoes, and we’re overcome with the urge to tell them so. I’ve been sucked in before. I’ve decided to make a witty, spontaneous response to someone’s obviously erroneous post, but it takes me a long time to sound witty and spontaneous. I carefully crafted my comment only to have them comment on my comment, apparently unconvinced. Also, apparently faster at being witty and spontaneous than I am. Then I commented, they commented and days passed with me looking at my phone every few minutes to comment on their latest comment.
2) I won’t believe everything I read on Facebook, even if I really want to, and sometimes I really do want to. Before I muck up the newsfeeds of people I care about with delicious tidbits about the checkered though possibly fictional pasts of candidates, I’ll go to Snopes.com, the debunker/verifier of internet rumors. And even if a sordid rumor is true, I still may not share it. That’s what cable news is for.
3) I pledge to be respectful to all, even those I believe to be a few chads short of a full ballot. I’ll leave the name calling to the candidates. This is not only polite, it’s practical. I’ve never been persuaded to change my mind by someone who called me names, so I imagine I’ll never change anyone else’s mind using that technique either, tempting as it may be.
4) I will never behave as badly as the people I think behave badly. There’s a race to the bottom on Facebook and, while I normally don’t do well in races, I could win this one if I choose to participate.
Two columnists I know, one from each side of the political aisle, have both told me that based on reader feedback, the other side is clearly the rudest. I would have made the following insightful comment to them, except I didn’t think of it in time: Well, duh.
Of course the side that agrees with you is more polite—to you. They may not be so nice to someone they disagree with. If you doubt that, check out what they share on Facebook.
(Dorothy Rosby is the author of the humor book, I Didn’t Know You Could Make Birthday Cake from Scratch: Parenting Blunders from Cradle to Empty Nest. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Rules of engagement on Facebook