With the political season heating up, it’s important that we’re all ready to dominate social media. Submitted for your approval is a list of ways to win arguments on Facebook every time.
#6 - Remember you are a guest on someone else’s property. When someone makes a political statement on Facebook it’s kind of like they’re posting a campaign sign in their front yard. That might be an invitation to a debate, or it might not, but either way remember it’s their property. If you get sick of seeing too many political posts from an individual, just remove them from the newsfeed.
* When Bin Laden was killed last year, I posted an article about it that spurred a debate between two friends of mine about the morality of celebrating a person’s death. One of the individuals made really inappropriate comments (ie attacking the other person’s religion), so I deleted her and blocked her. Attacking other people’s guests is no way to win.
#5 - Keep your responses succinct. There’s a reason Twitter is popular: you have to keep yourself brief. Sure, some would argue that’s why we have different social platforms: you want to say something in 141 or more characters, go on Facebook. But keep your responses short enough that people don’t have to click on the “See more” button. Long-winded Facebook posts make it look like you have nothing else to do or are trying too hard, and few things are as unimpressive as trying too hard to impress people.
* You never want to be the guy who does this:
#4 - Read an entire article before posting why it’s wrong. This one is kind of a well-duh, but it happens all the time. You skim the first three sentences of an article and get so worked up you just can’t wait to comment on why your friend is wrong for having posted it. Then 10 minutes later someone else chimes in to show how wrong you are with a copy/paste from the article you were too lazy to finish.
* Chances are, though, at least some of the time the person posting the article won’t have read it all either. This is the Internet, man – most of us don’t have time to read more than a headline before checking our email, our newsfeed, our YouTube subscriptions, skimming an article on Cracked, then following a link to a Wikipedia page for some reason we have to read before checking our email again.
#3 - Be big enough to let someone else have the last word. It’s OK to engage someone in a political conversation on Facebook, but there’s a difference between sharing a dissenting opinion and haranguing someone. That makes you look needy – particularly if you jump back on an argument the first thing next morning. Remember this isn’t your property: the person who owns the post gets the last word. Don’t respond to every comment everyone posts on a thread.
* This rule was especially important back in the days before all notifications for a single post were rolled up into one. I remember returning from lunch one day a few years ago to see I had 20+ notifications – how popular I must be! I thought – until I saw they were all notifications on the same thread by two people who couldn’t shut up.
#2 - One and done. No, this is not a summary for BYU’s typical March Madness performance. If you need to disagree with someone, only do it once. It makes you look cooler because it shows the argument really doesn’t matter to you, and it avoids the risk of escalation.
* When a friend bragged about attending an LGBT rally around Temple Square one night, I commented that a speech act designed to threaten and intimidate was hardly a way to promote tolerance and fellowship. He responded, but I didn’t (one and done) – so we discussed it offline amicably.
#1 - Don’t say anything at all. So if you’re reading this website, chances are you have a lot of politically active friends who will make politically charged posts several times per week or even per day. Throwing yourself into dozens of political debates makes it look like you’re either a narcissist or have nothing better to do or both. Political discussion can be a fun way of interacting online, but most of the time the best answer is no answer.
OK so if you’ve made it this far (rather than just skimming the top before posting something nasty in the comment section), you can see that my headline was a bit misleading: this isn’t about winning arguments on Facebook, it’s about managing your online brand. You don’t want to be those people who insert themselves into every debate because they need 65 notifications every day on Facebook to feel good about themselves. Moreover, online arguments that escalate to the point of real conflict fail to persuade. The best way to persuade someone is demonstrate an agreeable, courteous attitude.
People won’t remember what you said; they’ll only remember if you were a jerk or not.