We are in the midst now of what I consider the absolute worst time in the social media calendar: presidential election season. I remember the last election cycle on social media really well and not for positive reasons. My social feeds were constantly filled with posts on both sides of the political spectrum, and wouldn’t you know it both sides thought the other side were idiots. I saw friends getting in social wars on Facebook and Twitter, and people who normally post business related content on LinkedIn espousing their politics for all the world to see. People in all walks of life and various lines of businesses and professions were coming out of the woodwork, changing course 180 degrees on their normal social activities and getting on their proverbial soap boxes. We literally went from pics of kids and puppies to the merits of Romney and Obama, socialism, terrorism and everywhere in between. People got really heated and I literally witnessed friendships and relationships crumble because of people’s posts on social. When there was a victor announced, the people on the winning side gloated and wagged their fingers at the vanquished. The losing side bemoaned the end of civilization as we know it and called out the winners as being on the “wrong side of history”. And all of this made me wince – every last post of it.
Look – I too follow politics and have very strong opinions and preferences (just ask any of my friends). While you will see me on channels like Facebook and Twitter occasionally post about dorky movies and sweet tunes, I promise that you will NEVER see me post publicly on social media what my political beliefs are. I vividly remember in my early college years getting in a heated political debate at a family event. What was intended to be a fun get together of family turned into a uncomfortable mess, with people feeling hurt and pissed off. Afterwards, my parents relayed to me a very important life lesson I still heed to this day: It is not a good idea to discuss “politics and religion” in social situations, their reasoning being:
1. You aren’t going to be changing anyone’s minds or views
2. Just because you disagree with people doesn’t give you the right to push your beliefs on them
3. Politics and Religion are such “hot button” topics and so rooted in core beliefs of people that they can’t help but get combative when challenged on what they believe so deeply
This lesson made a lot of sense to me, and ever since I have really tried to keep my opinions to myself (outside of close friends, family and colleagues who engage me in these topics – then game on). OK – I definitely slip up every once in a while, but one place I would NEVER even touch these topics is on social media. I have written about the importance of your personal brand (post can be found here) and one sure way to muck it all up, recruiter, sales person, whatever – is to post your politics on social media. Even worse, you represent your company or business and do you think they want your politics out there representing them? If your goal is to alienate people who disagree with you, you will succeed 100% of the time. This goes beyond just your business facing accounts too. One of the reasons that I like Facebook the LEAST of all the social platforms is because this type of activity there is incredibly prevalent among people I actually know and like in real life. When I see friends, family, classmates and ex colleagues post their politics (even if I agree with them) I get really upset (especially if I don’t agree with them). I understand they are passionate about what they are talking about, but unless you are actually in politics, part of some organized movement or putting your money where your mouth is (read: actually doing something about the issue) this is nothing but shouting at a group of people with meaningless and inflammatory rhetoric. What ALWAYS happens is people get pissed, argue and then the insults start flying. Good times.
* There have been some massive global movements that started on social media and I acknowledge that. However – if you are on social media representing your company I would venture to guess that they would like you to think otherwise before joining the cause du jour. As they saying goes “do it on your on time”. Just remember – even on your personal accounts you are asking to be disagreed with – and potentially argued with too by people you might not expect.
Here’s the thing – especially for those with the intent of using social media for business purposes: this will never be a good strategy. Never. As my parents once so succinctly put it – you are not going to change anyone’s minds, and you certainly aren’t going to sway anyone’s opinions posting the latest memes or info-graphics or re-tweeting someone else’s crap. What you will succeed at is pissing off a large portion of the people you are connected with. If you really are that passionate about the political topic you are relentlessly bombarding me with posts about I have an idea. Instead of going on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or wherever and posting your opinions, go out and actually do something about it. Join a march, contribute to causes or even more simply – vote for your favorite candidate. Just keep it to yourself online.