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Or should I just keep quiet?
February 14, 2013 2:42 AM   Subscribe

Help me navigate a clash of political ideals without losing my friends.

A lot of my friends have a political viewpoint relating to a particular national issue that I find too problematic to support wholeheartedly - although I think it has its pluses, I think that no one is even acknowledging the minuses. My Facebook feed is full of photos and slogans. Part of me would really love to have a discussion with them about this question because I actually think it's quite interesting. But they are a very black-and-white thinking group, and seem to reject any attempts at impartial discussion - it's all very "If you're not with us, you're against us". It is a VERY emotive topic for a lot of them - more so than from me.

Now they are asking me to join them in some of their activities in support of this movement. I can't decide whether it's worth telling them how I feel even if it causes problems, or whether I should just keep quiet and come up with bogus excuses - and how I can continue to feel at peace with myself when I have really strong feelings and no safe outlet for them.

I guess my question is, what have you guys done when your close friends have differed from you politically? If you've kept quiet about what you believe in order to keep the peace, did you regret it?

I haven't specified the politics in question as I don't wish to derail, and also I'm not posting this anonymously.
posted by Ziggy500 to Human Relations (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
"I really appreciate the invite. I'm generally sympathetic to [cause] but I have some reservations, and I'm not really comfortable committing my time and energy to it."

And there, at least potentially, is your entree into a discussion.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 3:07 AM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Are they close friends or just acquaintances? If they're not people you see a lot I might lean towards making an excuse, or just saying best of luck with your activities but there are other causes which I'm more passionate about. But if they are good friends I think you should be able to have a discussion with them, and hope your opinions are as valid to them as theirs are to you. I often find myself on a different side in political / social debates than most people I know and to be honest I love a good debate so I am happy to agree to disagree with people. You should be able to express your feelings openly to people who matter to you and you should matter enough for them to be able to hear you. Life would be dull if we all agreed on everything, and compromising your own beliefs will cause more strain than a bit of healthy discussion.
posted by billiebee at 3:10 AM on February 14, 2013


That sounds like the sort of thing I'd discuss privately, one-on-one; not something for your Facebook wall. There's no point in trying to force a thoughtful discussion in the midst of rah-rah groupthink. They're posting about whatever it is to share in the mutual reinforcement and feel good about themselves. They are not looking to explore the issue.
posted by jon1270 at 3:10 AM on February 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


But they are a very black-and-white thinking group, and seem to reject any attempts at impartial discussion - it's all very "If you're not with us, you're against us".

This is very immature (but common) thinking, reinforced by groupthink and tempered only when presented with thoughtful points of view that differ respectfully. The more a black-white thinker hears from people they respect that "I agree with this aspect of the cause but believe that this other aspect has the potential to backfire" or "I see your point but I believe our side has some culpability in the matter as well" etc., the more chance there is for open dialogue.


or whether I should just keep quiet and come up with bogus excuses - and how I can continue to feel at peace with myself when I have really strong feelings and no safe outlet for them.

What is unsafe about stating your opinion? Are you worried that someone will say "ZIggy is an idiot for thinking that" on facebook? Haters gonna hate, and once you start keeping quiet about things to keep the peace, you'll be censoring yourself all the time (and the peace still won't be kept). There is no safety in suppressing your own point of view. Don't look for safety, look for honesty.
posted by headnsouth at 4:27 AM on February 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is what happens when you keep quiet. First:

A lot of my friends have a political viewpoint... no one is even acknowledging the minuses.

Nobody says anything, opinions get more entrenched, and then:

My Facebook feed is full of photos and slogans. ... it's all very "If you're not with us, you're against us".

Nobody says anything, the echo-chamber gets louder and more intense, and then:

Now they are asking me to join them in some of their activities

And you're asking if you should keep quiet to keep the peace. Keeping the peace doesn't work. Peace requires action, not inaction. When nobody says "hey I'm not sure you're headed in the right direction here..." then people just keep going farther down the wrong path. The wrongness grows when you remain silent, it doesn't go away. This is true with politics, in relationships, at work, etc. Keeping silent doesn't give the other person an opportunity to recalibrate, it doesn't do anything to solve problems, it just avoids honesty altogether.
posted by headnsouth at 4:50 AM on February 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Once upon a time I was a political berserker who loved nothing more than to wade into internet combat about political issues. I don't do that any more. My personal experience has been that the folks who are making the most noise in arenas like Facebook are the least receptive to differing viewpoints (including myself, back in the day).

I strenuously avoid taking part in these conversations on Facebook because those conversations are usually not productive. Face-to-face, I'll engage (non-aggressivley) until the cows come home.

In my view, yhere is no reasonable exchange of political ideas on the internet; there is only an exchange of artillery fire. So, I concentrate on having those discussions in contexts where the discussion has a high likelihood of being profitable for all involved.

More specifically, if someone is asking you to take specific action, I think your best bet is simply to say "I'm not comfortable doing that." You don't owe anyone any more explanation than that.
posted by DWRoelands at 5:49 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are they your actual friends or are they just people you've linked to on Facebook?

I choose not to be friends with people that are close-minded, and due of my activities outside of work most of my friends tend to be on the same side of issues that I am. However, if I had people pressuring me to join in with them on activities and discussions that I didn't agree with them on I would tell them as such: "I'm sorry but I don't agree with you on that, so I probably won't be joining you". If you wanted to take it further you could say "I'd love to discuss this topic with you, but only if you'll be civil in our discussions". If they drop you as a friend of a facebook connection because of that I wouldn't be worried at the loss, move on and find people that you can interact with while showing your true self.

Also, if people are pressuring you into things (activities, drugs, social situations, ...), and you've made your desires clear, then they are not your friends and don't deserve your time. I've dumped quite a few people because of this (they are poison in your life)

Good luck!
posted by zombieApoc at 5:50 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I had this problem during the last election, especially on Facebook.

I made a short announcement in my feed:

I support our president and his re-election campaign. I am hoping that all of my friends will respect my decision and not bombard my feed with slogans and silly photos, I promise to respect your choice and to do the same.

Most of my friends agreed and we're all still friends. We have very dear friends with whom we would NEVER discuss politics because we disagree about everything.

The was one guy though...he got unfriended.

I like Emperor SnooKloze's statement to someone asking you to join in.

Perhaps you can adopt a short status update like mine for social media: "While I'm sympathetic to Cause, I still have reservations about some of the issues involved. Please leave me out of any plans around Cause until you hear otherwise. I appreciate your respecting my decision."

Hang in there.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:57 AM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have an "I don't do politics on Facebook" policy. And I stick to it. It's just an awful forum for that sort of thing.

join them in some of their activities in support of this movement

Meaning IRL? Can you plead "too busy"? I realize this all sounds very passive-agressive, but I'm assuming you mean "Facebook friends" not "people I like and deal with often IRL whose opinions I care a lot about."
posted by JoanArkham at 6:01 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guess my question is, what have you guys done when your close friends have differed from you politically?

This happened to me during the last election cycle. I found that certain friends (some from very long ago) had views that I found abhorrent. So I did a couple of things.
1) I simply used my FB feed to state my positions and post articles supporting that. That shut down quite a few.
2) I stopped responding to all requests I considered quack-a-doodle.
3) I quietly put those persons with the above requests on my SPAM list.
4) I Eventually closed my FB account and opened a new one with an almost anon-UID. I only invited certain people who I could tolerate. Some have divergent views, but I filtered out the passing acquaintances that I had accumulated over the years.
5) Resigned myself that some people who I once considered friends that a) had divergent viewpoints that maybe I did not know of before, b) that my values had changed over the years and c) that I will probably never change their minds and they will not change mine.

Better to let them go on their way and if they feel so inclined to contact me, then I can deal with it at that time. Until then, given I consider their views on life to be so obnoxious, I would rather not have them around nor do I feel the need to argue about it.

Yes, it is passive agressive, but I don't give a shit. I have better stuff to do with my life than try to make quack-a-doodles aware of their quack-a-doodleness.
posted by lampshade at 6:02 AM on February 14, 2013


Hi guys! Thanks for the amazing answers so far.

Just one point of clarification as a couple of people have asked: I am asking my question about real friends. Yeah, there's also a lot of Facebook activity from people I don't see very often, but the people I'm concerned about are the 'real' friends whom I see all the time. Yes, uptil now I have kept quiet in order to not rock the boat - a few of the answers on this thread are persuading me that's not the right way to proceed :)
posted by Ziggy500 at 6:07 AM on February 14, 2013


I have two or three times waded into this sort of thing on facebook, and only in cases that were similar to your situation: real friends, who hold a position I can sympathize with but have strong reservations about. It went quite well; I told them just that, gave a brief description of why I disagreed, there was a little back-and-forth, and we agreed to disagree. I don't think I changed anybody's mind but it did seem to tone the rhetoric down a bit in a few cases (or else they just started filtering me out of it, I suppose.)

If it were only acquaintances, or people who you totally completely polar-opposite disagree with, then it wouldn't be worth it at all.
posted by ook at 6:19 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Another vote to "agree to disagree." If they can't do that, and respect your right to think differently, that's a problem beyond politics.
posted by JoanArkham at 6:22 AM on February 14, 2013


I'll give you the other side - if they are very emotional about the issue, plus black and white thinking type people, then you're probably not going to be able to have a discussion. If it's an issue you feel strongly enough about to risk friendships over, then do your best to catch your friends one on one and try to have a calm discussion. I wouldn't do that over FB, and do your best to keep the tone intellectually curious and calm.

Yes, I understand that you shouldn't have to be quiet, your viewpoint deserves just as much respect, etc. Just understand and accept the tradeoff up front. Sometimes it's best to let things pass without making a big deal about it.
posted by mrs. taters at 6:23 AM on February 14, 2013


Ignoring hasn't worked and they assume you're one of them. If asked, you must make it plain that you do not agree with them. Don't overexplain. If they ask for clarification, don't engage further if you don't want to get into an argument.

If they drop you and you were polite, then that's on them.
posted by inturnaround at 6:43 AM on February 14, 2013


I guess my question is, what have you guys done when your close friends have differed from you politically?

I don't go to their events - I decline the Facebook invite and most of the time, they don't ask why. If they do, I say "I'm not comfortable going to political events - but we should grab coffee soon!" It's a pivot back to friendship, rather than political affiliation.

There have been one or two times that it's gone further than this, and I don't mind being rude and just ignoring them. Getting into political fights (and I don't mean discussions, when people are amped up and black/white emotional, they're fights) isn't going to change anyone's mind and it's a poor use of time. When the friends inquire as to why I am ignoring them, I say "I don't appreciate it when people politicize my friendships - but if you are interested in just being friends again, I'm open to that."

That hasn't failed to date.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 7:43 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I never discuss the 3 Gs - guns, God, and government - with people whom I wish to keep as friends." That's what I say to people whose views differ from mine, and it usually gets a chuckle and a respectful "Okay!"
posted by Addlepated at 3:34 PM on February 14, 2013


Hmm, I can't imagine having actual friends who were not at least vaguely aware of where I stand on most major issues. I won't bicker about it, I won't get caught up in petty debates on Facebook, but it never even occurred to me that this might be something you would actively HIDE as in trying to make up excuses not to join the cause rather than simply stating "I don't agree." Just say that! I don't agree with (X). Not I DON'T AGREE WITH X AND ALL Y'ALL ARE IDIOTS SENDING THIS COUNTRY TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET. Just a calm, civilly worded, I'm sorry I don't agree. Whoever wants to discuss further can do so privately, whoever gets pissy about it can rightly screw off. Isn't this standard form?
posted by celtalitha at 6:32 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't imagine having actual friends who were not at least vaguely aware of where I stand on most major issues.

I can see this sounds really weird without giving details of the issue in question. It's more like degrees... they are much more extreme in their views about this than I am. Broadly speaking, we share the same opinion.

Thanks for your answers, guys. I took a step today in the right direction (polite refusal). So far, so good.
posted by Ziggy500 at 4:32 AM on February 15, 2013


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