You’re most welcome: political opinions as “gifts” to share

In this last post during this week of reflections about social media, I’m reflecting on a passage from The Facebook Effect where one of the founders shares his belief that Facebook creates a space for generosity by reducing the costs associated with sharing of oneself.

And that got me thinking about the ways in which I use social media, and about social work boundaries, and about transcending taboos about disclosing one’s beliefs.

And, if I can pull all of that together into anything coherent, I guess it’s this:

I share my beliefs about justice, and politics, and the world, not as much in an attempt to bring anyone ‘around’ to my way of thinking, but to be an integrated, whole person, and to rather transparently share that self with others.

I don’t think that I do my students, or my friends, or even my family members, any favors if I hide my beliefs, or tried, in pursuit of politeness, to present a bland caricature of who I really am. Nor, of course, would a single-minded pursuit of my own vision of righteous truth likely bring me closer to a generous sense of community.

But somewhere in between, in the realm of sharing how who I am (wife, mother, neighbor, friend, teacher) shapes what I believe (that we must welcome the stranger, that all children deserve a chance at their dreams, that health care is a right, that poverty is a global shame), I hope that I help others clarify their own beliefs, challenge their previously-held truths, and articulate a vision of “the good society.”

I did that before Facebook, obviously. Politics have never been off the table in my family, even though there’s considerable difference of opinion, and my friends have always known what I think.

But I will grant that social media have changed the nature of the conversation a bit, increased the number of occasions when there’s a chance for real dialogue, helped me to discover that some of my friends and even family share views of mine that I hadn’t known, and given me a chance to remind those with opposing views that there is a bond of love and respect between us nonetheless.

I’m still working on how to challenge statements without attacking that messenger, especially on issues (racial justice, equal rights for gays and lesbians) where I see things very clearly in “right” and “wrong”. I value the practice I get on Facebook, and the chance to weave humor and life and motherhood, in particular, into my activism as well.

I see it as a gift, too, when my students and others are willing to share their own beliefs with me, as a sort of extension of trust and demonstration that they’re engaged enough to invest a bit of themselves.

Have social media changed how you share your political perspectives with those in your social networks? If so, how? What’s your response to policy and political debates on Facebook and other social media? How do you live generously, as an advocate of social justice, in this connected age?

7 responses to “You’re most welcome: political opinions as “gifts” to share

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  3. I couldn’t agree more with your post. Social media has made me more curious about opposing views than I was before. I often follow ideas/links and try to filter my own biases in order to understand their point of view opposed to immediately dismissing these ideas. I am also more vigilant about what I share – I want the information to be of good quality – well researched so it might spark the same curiosity in others. If I hope for anything when I share it is that someone will take a chance and step out of respective box for a minute or two.

    • That’s an awesome point about being vigilant in the quality of what you share! I find that some of my social media contacts who have a track record (with me, at least!) of sharing really quality links and analysis have my attention much more than those who seem to not really screen their stuff that well before sharing, and that has been a lesson for me, too! Thank you for your comment.

  4. I actually use Twitter a lot more for my political messages and Facebook i use much more for keeping up with friends. Occasionally I’ll post an article on Facebook but for me, Twitter is much better about being able to keep work and ‘home’ separate. The other positive about Twitter is being able to have a ‘fasttrack’ to influencers such as politicians, journalists etc are easily approached about issues that I might feel strongly about and where I’d never have much of a voice if I were to write a letter or email – addressing some issues in a more open platform can force the points to a wider audience.

    • Those are great points, and I think you’re right about Twitter’s audience. Honestly, a lot of my former students just haven’t really adopted Twitter, and because I use social media so much to engage with them around policy issues, Facebook ends up being a platform for that. But I love how many journalists, in particular, are active on Twitter, and I’ve had some conversations with them result from that platform specifically. Not as many local politicians around here are on Twitter as elsewhere in the country, but I have to think it’s coming. Thanks so much for sharing!

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