Facebook Etiquette with in-laws in mind
November 16, 2012 4:34 PM   Subscribe

I am British. I have recently acquired American in-laws. They are a traditionally Republican family. I, like many Europeans, consider the current iteration of the Republican Party has passed so far beyond the pale as to no longer be a rational organisation. So I saw a post-election graphic on Facebook I would normally have shared, but...I'm wondering how this new branch of family will perceive that.

I am progressive and I suppose left-wing but not blindly so, I don't think. I myself married into an English family that were traditionally conservative, with a small c. But my MIL, although traditional, was a most lovely, generous, tolerant person in practice. I understand people are most comfortable with the ideas they've been brought up with and I think there are times when it is actively unkind to insist on telling an older person why everything they believe is (arguably) misguided. Having said that, if I was directly and personally confronted with racism say, I, as Black woman, would challenge it - but sometimes within families, situations are ambiguous. Not everyone's been brought up to question authority or examine their own default opinions.

This is to say, I believe members of a family should treat each other with consideration and try not to be confrontational. I believe in sticking up for what I believe in but to try to do so without hurting other people's feelings as in family situations I'm usually aware they are trying not to hurt mine.

So, this particular graphic was three consecutive maps of the USA showing how areas which voted Republican this year correspond with areas which instituted segregation last century and the former slave states of the South in the century before that.

My question is, would this be seen as intrusive by my new in-laws? Would they think I don't have the right to make such a comment since I probably don't understand their country and their system and don't have a stake in it? (Actually I do have a stake in it as my daughter and grand-daughter will make their home there for the foreseeable future.)

But I guess I'm just interested, American Mefites, in what your reactions, as Americans, would be to a foreigner Facebook-posting such a graphic. Of course me and the in-laws are all on Facebook together for the communication, and I'm quite aware they are being reely reely polite and considerate towards me.

Another aspect to this is that since USA is a global power what happens there deeply concerns other countries - we watch your news with interest as we know...sorry to be partisan...Mitt Romney as president would have been catastrophic. I suppose one answer to this conundrum might be, filter the in-laws out so they don't see such posts. But this feels dishonest, somehow. I hope to know these people better and I feel even if we have different attitudes, we ought in the future to be able to talk about it civilly and respect each other.

To recap, American Mefites, what would you feel on seeing such a comment on the Facebook feed of a British person? I just want to get an idea of whether it would be unnecessarily provocative or hurtful.
posted by glasseyes to Human Relations (46 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Don't. This isn't an Americans vs. Foreigners question, this is a these people are your spouse's parents questions. Put your in-laws into a special group on Facebook that don't see all your updates, and only show them the unambiguously nice ones. Then go ahead and post this for your friends on Facebook, where they can't see it. It's just not worth it.
posted by brainmouse at 4:36 PM on November 16, 2012 [46 favorites]

My reaction (as an American who was so relieved about the election outcome) would be duh. The fact that the south is and has been the less-progressive part of the country isn't news.

But you can always post it and exclude your inlaws from seeing it, if you're worried.
posted by jeoc at 4:39 PM on November 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

I share your situation, but one degree closer in that the crazy Republicans are actual blood relatives. I still try to avoid posting much political stuff to FB, and even then try to limit it to articles rather than graphics- at least there is something meatier to discuss.

I view this as taking the high road, and I do it to preserve family harmony.
posted by ambrosia at 4:40 PM on November 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

I wouldn't do it. My husband and I are left-wing. My husband calls me a socialist (I'm not).

I don't post or comment on anything political on Facebook. I have too many friends who are Democrats and Republicans and I choose to act like I'm in polite company on Facebook and avoid religion and politics.

The map doesn't make that much sense if you think about history. The south voted Democrat before Nixon changed things.
posted by Fairchild at 4:44 PM on November 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

Just be sure that if you're gonna let them see these, don't post anything that you wouldn't feel comfortable 'shouting' in a room with just them.
posted by Strass at 4:44 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Odds are overwhelming that you're not going to change their opinions or elicit any kind of conversation that is going to be positive by posting such an image in their faces.

I say this as a very progressive Okie that has seen more than his fair share of such images since the election and they strike me as simplistic and elitist, especially when put out there as "gotcha! LOL!" jabs by people that have never spent much time in a Red State.

Shit's a lot more nuanced than such an image can convey, especially with people you don't seem to know very well.
posted by Ufez Jones at 4:46 PM on November 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'd be surprised if they haven't already seen that.

Is it provocative? Of course.

Don't post it if you don't want to have an argument/discussion with them. (I don't really think that your being from outside the US has much to do with it--I totally agree that you have a huge stake, even more than other people do.) If you're up for a debate that could end in hurt feelings--and for me, some things are--then go ahead.
posted by wintersweet at 4:48 PM on November 16, 2012

I haven't really found political posts all that helpful on Facebook. It seems to divide more than anything else. Suddenly your "friends" go all "Us vs Them." It can become quite hateful on both sides. It rarely changes anyone's opinion. And so I avoid political posts on FB. I don't agree with my in-laws or even all my friends on politics, and I'd like to keep us focused on things we agree on... so I try not to offend.
Maybe you have a Twitter account they don't know about where you could post it?? :-)
posted by LilBit at 4:50 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm an American with some British professional acquaintances (and some relatives who aren't really online). Unfortunately for the purpose of answering your question, I'm socially liberal and was horrified by Romney.

If a Brit posted something pro-Obama, I wouldn't think much of it because my impression is that almost no one abroad likes our current Republican party. If they posted something pro-Republican...primarily I would be fascinated, for the same reason.

With the graphic you mention, I think current Republicans would be angry if anyone compared them to supporters of slavery, and even more so if a foreigner did so. So yeah, skip it or do a limited list.
posted by ecsh at 4:51 PM on November 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

My in-laws share my political leanings, and I still exclude them from any posts not having to do with their grandchild. I just don't need that level of intimacy with them.
posted by snickerdoodle at 4:51 PM on November 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

The reason people get into trouble with Facebook is it lures them into disregarding social conventions that are there for good reason, having been worked out over the centuries as best practices for keeping the gears of society running smoothly. If this isn't the kind of thing you'd show your in-laws over dinner, then it's probably not the kind of thing you want to show them over Facebook.
posted by HotToddy at 4:55 PM on November 16, 2012 [16 favorites]

To recap, American Mefites, what would you feel on seeing such a comment on the Facebook feed of a British person? I just want to get an idea of whether it would be unnecessarily provocative or hurtful.

I have British friends on facebook, some of whom are interested in the election stuff. I totally get why they might have been, but my response is the same as a response to anyone posting political stuff: hide it, do not engage.

Iwonder why they're reposting election stuff on facebook post-election indiscriminantly. There are a lot of people for whom facebook is a place to debate politics. I am not one of them. So, I don't engage in other people's political discussions on facebook and don't start my own. I hide folks who like to fight with other people about basically anything on facebook (politics, whatever) because it's not really how I use it.

I feel that you're overthinking this. Talk to your new spouse. Follow their lead. For a lot of people family members who are different from them politically or socially are just people to be decent to at holidaytime and not people who you have to try to actively convert. It sounds like you're an older person with your in-laws older still (they are great-grandparents?) and this sound somewhat to me like it may be a difference of opinion that you're having with your spouse? Forgive me if I'm wrong but I feel like the way to start with this is either

- put the family on a list that you call "make nice" and don't post your political stuff where they can see it
- decide you don't care what they think since it's just facebook
- talk to your spouse and follow their lead.

Not that troubling. It's a problem that can have a technological solution or a social one or both.
posted by jessamyn at 4:59 PM on November 16, 2012

I would say that if your in-laws like having political discussions and are open-minded and intellectually inquisitive and engaged, then you could have conversations with them about such topics, but not via Facebook. However, it's a safe bet that it won't lead to any changing of political views. My convervative father-in-law is in the hospital right now, paid for by Medicare/Medicaid, but he probably still thinks government-supported health insurance is some type of awful socialistic policy that caters to the needs of lazy moochers.
posted by Dansaman at 5:04 PM on November 16, 2012

From a generic American point of view, I think the fact that you're Black makes a difference here. I can't even articulate why very clearly. I think it's because I usually feel that my European friends have a naive view of the role race plays in the US, and even though you're a Black Brit rather than an African-American, I would feel intuitively that your view would have more weight.

That said, to Americans, the idea that the South votes R is so in the realm of conventional wisdom that these particular graphics may be of minimal interest.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:09 PM on November 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

Really, you want to create a group called Family, put them in it, and restrict it.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:12 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

As someone who lives in the American South in an area that happily went overwhelmingly for President Obama, whose neighbors are descendents of those slaves and victims of Jim Crow, I would be offended by the facile and banal point made in the graphic, which suggests that you might not know enough about US politics and history to be posting such a thing.

The same state that shows up as bright red, segregated, and slave-holding on your maps sends Civil Rights hero John Lewis to Congress every 2 years. In 4 years, Georgia and North Carolina will likely no longer have a majority race, and no one can predict what that will do to the political landscape. Race and politics are a very complicated subject. If you want to offend your inlaws with your opinions on US politics, wait until you have an interesting point to make.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:13 PM on November 16, 2012 [24 favorites]

Data point: I am a (white) American who has lived in the UK for a couple of years as a teenager. I was born and raised in Texas and my politics are fairly liberal (Obama voter, criticize him more from the left than the right). I've seen the graphic, rolled my eyes, and moved on. I am annoyed by people who post it in general but it would get my back further up if any foreigner posted it. hydropsyche has it here: that's not the hill you want to die on.
posted by immlass at 5:16 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think the answer to your question depends much more on the individuals involved than on your nationality. That said, I think looking at a county-by-county breakdown, and by population, as on these maps (especially the last 2 pairs), might provoke a more interesting response from your in-laws.
posted by brianogilvie at 5:16 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do yourself a favor and just exclude your inlaws from that post.
posted by gjc at 5:26 PM on November 16, 2012

What you need to remember is that this proposed posting wouldn't do anything but anger other people --- it certainly wouldn't change anybody's mind, nor will it make anyone thoughtfully reconsider their beliefs.

It wouldn't help even if you were ALL ultra-conservative tea-party Republicans (or all Libertarians, all Democrats, or all anything-else): nobody likes to feel hectored, or to have someone else shoving their opinions --- political or otherwise --- down their throats. Plus, in this particular case, you've got to add in your being British ("our election isn't HER business!") and how your proposed posting might feel, to them, like a bad winner kicking them while they're down.

Assuming you'd prefer to keep the peace with your new in-laws, it's better to keep anything like this OFF facebook.
posted by easily confused at 5:28 PM on November 16, 2012

While I don't think it would be hurtful, it certainly is provocative and probably not in a positive way. I have never known a person who, after seeing a political post on Facebook, had the scales fall from their eyes and changed their mindset.

I didn't support Romney at all, but the election is over and when I see my friends (of any nationality) continue to post graphics and articles that in essence say "Hey, you're *still* misguided and wrong!" they look like someone at a podium screaming at an empty auditorium. Which is probably not how you want your inlaws to see you.
posted by kimberussell at 5:38 PM on November 16, 2012

Just one post and then I'll not thread sit anymore.

Firstly, thanks everyone for your responses. To clarify, I've acquired new in-laws through my daughter's marriage.

I'm not looking to change anybody's mind, and certainly not through Facebook, but that map would normally be a talking point between me and acquaintances interested in the issue. I'm not pointing and laughing, and I don't want to cause hurt, now my circle has widened.

brianogilvie, those maps are amazing.

hydropsyche, thanks for the info and insight. That is nuanced and convincing.

I guess it comes down to what people mostly use Facebook for. I used to be on livejournal back in the day and web culture has certainly changed since then. I mean I think any interested observer has a right to comment on events in the news whatever their nationality. An outsider brings a different perspective which may still be perfectly valid. Katrina for instance was so shocking in many ways but particularly in the contrast between what should be expected from a developed country to what actually happened. I guess the point is whether Facebook is appropriate for that type of comment.

Looking forward to more comments and opinions.
posted by glasseyes at 5:49 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Quick comment since you asked for more: I am a registered Republican but have felt for years now that my party has been hijacked by extremists. I did, before the election, see the map you mentioned and felt that it supported my opinion. I do not happen to participate in Facebook. I agree with others that relations with relatives and in laws are often dicey at the best of times so an abundance of caution is probably called for.
posted by forthright at 6:21 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty much a yellow dog Democrat, though I'm not Southern.
I've seen that graphic and I think its hideously offensive. It basically accuses people in the 'red' states of being as backwards as slaveowners. I don't think its a good place to start a conversation.

Sadly, an innocous comment about a restaurant doggie-bag on my facebook page resulted in comentary that led to an in-law de-friending this election season. So, no, I wouldn't post that graphic where my more conservative friends or in-laws could see it. There is no point in offending people that we want to be on good terms with.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:27 PM on November 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

It would be a dick move, from the perspective of this raging socialist southern queer.
posted by thelastcamel at 6:40 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think a major factor in this is what your daughter and her spouse's political views are and how that affects their behavior on facebook.

As a leftist who grew up in the south and has a very conservative family, I share away, because I'm not about to let my conservative family's opinions affect how I express myself politically. They know I'm a pinko. I don't care what they think about it, and those opinions aren't going to change me or the things I say/think/advocate.

That said, if your child/spouse-in-law are more moderate or careful to keep their facebook apolitical because of family issues, you should probably follow suit.

Also, in general, considering that you're neither American nor from the south, I think it might be better not to weigh in on issues around the history of race relations and the civil rights movement in the American South. Just like I'd probably not post stuff to Facebook about Schwartze Piet if I had Dutch in-laws. It's just sort of not my fight. You know?
posted by Sara C. at 6:48 PM on November 16, 2012

It's not a liberal vs conservative or D vs R thing, it's a US vs foreigner thing.

I'm from India. Does my country have problems? Yes. Do I criticize my country, often and loudly, despite the fact that I am a proud, patriotic Indian? Absolutely.

But. The moment a non-Indian, especially one who doesn't have very much familiarity with my country's history and culture, tries to get on their high horse? I'd either laugh in their faces or tell them to fuck off. Because really, it's not their place. Especially since as foreigners, the vast majority of them will know as much about how India (or, for that matter, the US) really works as Todd Akin does about science. I'm not saying YOU don't know anything about the US, but it's just impossible for someone not born and raised in a culture to have as good an understanding of it as a native would. And I wouldn't think much of anyone who thought they did.

Same deal with you and your relatives, especially when it comes to as sticky an issue as race relations. Hell, if you were American I'd think you were an ignorant asshole. Leave it alone.
posted by Tamanna at 7:27 PM on November 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'm in a pretty much identical situation. English, and politically I'm in that region where the Democrats, Libertarians and Greens overlap. Fiancee is American (for privacy, keeping her politics out of it). Some (not all) of her relatives are ... some way along the right wing spectrum (there isn't really a 'typical' monolithic Republican). Some of these are on Facebook.

I chose a long time ago not to engage in American politics with right wing Americans online. No good can come of it. Part of the problem is that there is no 'neutral' place to debate; it's either on your FB wall (territory) or theirs (territory). Part of the problem is how polarised, stark and un-nuanced debate and 'information' becomes on social media.

I do blog (a lot) about US politics as I'm obsessed by it in an open-minded way and will talk to anyone, Democrat, Republican and so forth, face to face. That means going to any convenient political events and chatting. Pretty much all the folks I've met, of all political persuasions, and talked to in this manner have been polite. Even Rick Santorum, despite him referring to Europeans a few minutes later as "lazy".

However... face to face with potential in-laws is another thing altogether, especially if you are obliged to be in a room with them, and they start. One relative of my fiancee regurgitates everything he hears off Fox News. The first time I politely disagreed. He was flummoxed. The others aren't so bad in discussion, and are discreet; I think they are aware I go and hear e.g. Pawlenty and Clinton speak, and are a bit puzzled by me. But basically, I don't bring this stuff up with them. The rule I'm trying to follow is:

Don't do or say anything unnecessary that makes it awkward for my fiancee.

Which, come to think of it, might be a good rule for life in general, not just dealing with the politics of her family. To risk embarrassing my fiancee and damaging our relationship, just to score a temporary political debating point ... not worth it.

On the particular graphic you mention; it's over-simplified and probably more likely to start an argument than a meaningful debate. But that goes for a lot of pseudo-political stuff that gets "shared" on Facebook.

On a highly related point, the British media gives an appallingly simplified view of US politics, as you may be discovering over time. (As an example, ask a random bunch of British people what the difference between a Libertarian and a Republican is, and see the blank looks). It's that monolithic, simplified, Republican or Democrat stereotype thing again, which (incorrectly) paints all Republicans as misogynists and all Democrats as fiscally liberal. RINOs (Republican In Name Only) and Reagan Democrats are interesting counter-examples.

It's taken me 10+ trips and 2+ years of living in the USA and actively meeting people to form a (very different) impression that is comfortably accurate. There are also many good books which may help in understanding the mindset of some Republican, independent and floating voters, quite possibly your in-laws. As starting points, I recommend Deer Hunting with Jesus, What's the Matter with Kansas? and (personal favourite in this genre) Superior, Nebraska. The epic and startlingly beautiful American travelogue Blue Highways, though not overtly political, may also assist.
posted by Wordshore at 7:50 PM on November 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

I've seen that graphic, and I wouldn't post it. It's extremely simplistic, and has an offputting "gotcha" quality to it -- it feels like it's meant to stop conversations, rather than open one up.

It also overlooks the fact that segregation was endemic throughout the United States in 1950 -- it was in no way limited to the South. Yes, Southern states had laws essentially making racial segregation mandatory, and part of the reason the Republican party is the way it is now is that it deliberately stoked white Southern resentment in the late 1960s after the federal government began to dismantle Jim Crow laws.

But, in the north and west, things were not much better. Sure, one of the maps in that graphic shows a lot of states outlawing segregation in the 1950s, but black Americans were still actively discriminated against in housing, employment, education, and other areas. My state -- Colorado -- technically banned segregation in its Reconstruction-era state constitution, but black residents of the state in the mid-twentieth century lived in segregated neighborhoods, were excluded from mountain resorts, often had to sit separately from whites in movie theaters, and were denied service in restaurants, stores, and other public facilities. Black students were deliberately confined to all-minority or majority-minority schools. It wasn't much better than it was in the South, by any means, which is something that graphic really overlooks.
posted by heurtebise at 7:54 PM on November 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

I wouldn't see it as intrusive but I would think you are needlessly pushing people's buttons, in an area where you're not an expert no less. I have several Facebook friends who have been posting things about Israel lately. I have stayed away from replying. I'm not going to change their minds. I might alienate people I like for no reason.

Also, I agree with those who noted that the character of the Republican party has changed dramatically over the last 8 years or so. My father is one of those registered Republicans who believes that his party no longer represents him, yet he won't change parties because in his opinion, he was there first. And he gave $200 to the Obama campaign in the last cycle.

The range of views in today's Republican party is more diverse than people give it credit for. I may be being too generous but i think the more extreme positions get more attention. Chris Christie is not someone I agree with but I respect him to some extent. Olympia Snowe was a moderate Republican who I respected. From time to time, John McCain has things to say that are worth hearing. Libertarians are more likely to skew Republican rather than Democratic and again, I don't always agree with them but I respect their perspective.

Also, four years from now, those maps are going to be completely irrelevant. Texas will be a blue state in a few election cycles. Ditto North Carolina, Arizona and possibly Georgia. So I really don't see the value in writing those places off.
posted by kat518 at 8:03 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's really, really unpleasant to log onto Facebook to take a break, by catch up with friends, share a joke, complain about how burnt the coffee was this morning, whatever, and have to scroll through people's political nastiness. It's even worse when they're people who have no idea what the hell they're talking about.

You need an "inlaws" group that you keep handy so you can block some of your posts from them anyway; but the graphic you're talking about posting is going to do nobody any good. Even your liberal American friends won't appreciate a foreigner making this sort of comment.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:21 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

As right and correct as you think your convictions are, they feel exactly the same about theirs.

I, like many Americans, consider the current iteration of the Democratic Party has passed so far beyond the pale as to no longer be a rational organisation.

There. Now how do you think your charming little graph will go over?
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:29 PM on November 16, 2012

I'm Canadian but I spent 7 years in the UK and now live in the US.

Brits are very misinformed about America in many many ways. Even Canadians are.

I routinely heard Brits deride Americans as fat but they usually don't realize they are 3rd in the world for obesity behind the US and Mexico.

I routinely heard Brits deride American militarism despite the UK facilitating American military adventurism and having the 4rth largest military expenditure.

I've heard Brits comment about the evil of wall street yet skip right past the issue the City is basically a giant money laundering system.

These are just things I can remember off the top of my head. There were countless others to the point where I, as just a neighbour to America, started getting really annoyed anytime a British person said something about America. And we all know Canadians love to say bad things about America!

So basically - you probably don't know as much as you think you do so tread carefully.
posted by srboisvert at 9:12 PM on November 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

I think it is a crazy vs. non-crazy thing.

American right-wing has zero to do with it in the bigger scheme.

PLEASE - Don't poke a stick at the crazy!

I'm American, have lived abroad in NZ, married to an Egyptian who was brought up Muslim, but went to French Catholic school pretty much all of his life. He hates whenever he sees women IRL or on the TV wearing any kind of head covering, and remarks that this is why he left Egypt.

My husband sees that head-covering culture as crazy.

I see most politicians in the US (but especially the Republican offerings this year, including the Senate and House Republicans who participated in the rape question that I heard one comedian term (Greg Proops, who you likely know!) as the "Rape Ticket") as totally NUTS.

With the corporatacracy out of control, with a president who was awarded a Peace Prize that then engages in war and approves of predator drones that kill - that's crazy.

It's all crazy.

Engaging in the black and white debate the corporate media defines for us (yep, I just did that) where there are nuanced perspectives to be promoted - equally damn crazy.

Don't do it. Don't contribute to that problem.

Be nice to your misinformed in-laws.

Woo them with gentle and occasional missives of humanity-positve sanity on FaceBook.

Please don't post inflammatory stuff that divides us. That serves no one.
posted by jbenben at 10:14 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

American living in the UK, here.

You and I probably are fairly sympatico with regard to politics. I, too, have American inlaws and other relatives who are (occasionally, on some issues) amongst the swivel-eyed frothers.

I think Woodshore has it correct. While the rather jaundiced British view of American politics is entertaining and sometimes clever, it is a bit thin, really. The reality is infinitely more complex and crazy-making.

On one hand, on the likelihood that you're looking to open up dialogue with your inlaws - your posting this will not accomplish this; ergo, don't.

On the other, in the chance that you're just looking to score points - well, you're better than that, really, aren't you?

Not worth it.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 12:35 AM on November 17, 2012

I've seen that graphic. It annoyed the hell out of me because it's such an oversimplification. Yes, the two maps match perfectly! That is, as long as you don't count: Florida, Indiana, West Virginia, Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Idaho. Oh. Right.

I think my major problem with that graphic really is that its basic argument is one that you see people living in the Northeast put forward a lot, i.e. the Northeast is the only liberal, sane part of the country (except for the West Coast, which somehow magically also belongs to the East Coast), the South is particularly crazy, and that the rest of the country just...doesn't count. As an American who has lived in a lot of different parts of America, this annoys me, because I have found that New England is often a lot more conservative than a subset of New Englanders will tell you it is; that everywhere you go in America, there are large differences between people's opinions in cities and in the country, and between the people who grew up somewhere and the people who moved there as adults; that the American West can't be so evenly divided into the liberal West Coast and the crazy hickdom of the mountain states; and that everywhere you go, the history of racism is actually a lot more complicated than how far south or north you are. For example, if you're interested, read a bit about redlining, which was the banks' deliberate practice of denying poor minority groups bank loans and mortgages, which led to urban decay and the growth of the suburbs. This practice started in the 1930s and it happened all over the country.

I think in general it's pretty hard to understand the history of another country if you're just a casual observer from the outside. I know that American news gets splashed all over newspapers all over the world, but I would still be careful about making large generalizations because it's pretty likely that the issue is more complicated than you might think.
posted by colfax at 2:58 AM on November 17, 2012 [8 favorites]

You're getting some sophisticated, nuanced answers here, and you seem to be taking them in. For what it's worth, I think FB is for sharing friendly stuff. Politics--especially complex stuff that simplistic graphs can't capture--is a better fit elsewhere.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 7:25 AM on November 17, 2012

I am as left wing as you can get, but I rarely share political graphics or memes on FB. (Like someone said above, I might post articles that are very insightful.) If I can't help myself, I exclude my right wing family members from that post. I haven't created groups, because I think that having them all have access to my posts keeps me vigilant about what I post online.

I liked the graphic. I saw it a lot and I thought it had some very simplistic historical meaning. However, it's basically like pointing into my family's face and saying, You People Are Racist. I wouldn't do that, even though I totally think they are. They already know what I think.
posted by RedEmma at 9:24 AM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

As a British leftie, I see where you're coming from - over here, as you know, the hysterical frothing about 'Obamacare' seems absolutely bizarre, and though I'm white I can see that the issues of slavery and segregation would feel like very difficult recent history. I get the 'outsider' thing as well - I was reading an article about a recent case of someone dying during a miscarriage in Ireland as abortion is illegal there, but as I'm neither Irish nor Catholic, I didn't feel comfortable commenting with my own views, even if all the comments pretty much said what I would have done.

However, political stuff was one of the reasons I stopped using Facebook. Partly it was because acquaintances would post stuff that I didn't merely disagree with but which was so far against my own sense of what is right and wrong that I would end up hiding them from my feed (unfriending people has a politics of its own which I couldn't be bothered to deal with), partly it was provocateurs trolling in a way that was more boring than offensive, and partly it was the memes against child abuse and whatnot which were posited in a way that made non-participants seem as though they actively supported the death of children (as someone who has experienced parental abuse and has had to spend a lot of time acknowledging it as such and dealing with it, I didn't want to log onto a site and be unwittingly confronted with it, alongside the suggestion it only happens to little kids) and were hard to filter out. I too was a livejournaler back in the day, and Facebook is very different, because you're being confronted with the views of family, colleagues and acquaintances in a way that is difficult to 'disagree' with and where drama happens and doesn't just stay on the site. It didn't seem an apropriate medium for the things I did on LJ or occasionally now on Twitter, and so I could never really get on with the site.

I believe you can filter your status updates so that some can see them but not others - is there a way you can configure this so that you can post the political updates to friends but not family members who may be offended as much as disagree?
posted by mippy at 10:27 AM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

There have been a ton of interesting and well-thought out answers here. I don't have anything really unique to add, but fwiw - I am American, and friends with a lot of Europeans on Facebook. Personally, I am liberal and have a very historical perspective, so I when I saw that same graphic I found it interesting, noted the correlation, and moved on. A European friend of mine, who has been living in the US for many years, posted this graphic and the reactions he got were illustrative: about one person publicly supported his decision to post it, and other friends (mostly Europeans, interestingly enough) came out of the woodwork to denounce it. Things got ugly, fast, and I imagine he saw a side of some friends he wasn't planning to see. Also, the conversation he got into with some seemed to drag on for days, maybe more than a week. Ymmv, but I thought it might be an applicable anecdote.
posted by AthenaPolias at 12:40 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Highly related to this is an excellent post from a librarian colleague in Michigan, on the dismaying and hyper-critical reaction to Obama's victory from some British and European lefties.

Be the change (instead of using any situation to have a pop at America or Americans) indeed.
posted by Wordshore at 12:53 PM on November 17, 2012

I'm a liberal American and I would be moderately annoyed that you were still posting election stuff on Facebook, can we please get on with our lives already? I might reply with a link to Scalzi's* Final Post Election Notes to Liberals, if I didn't just immediately remove the post from my feed when I saw a red and blue map.

*MeFi's own John Scalzi, etc.

(As another measure of how I feel, I couldn't even bring myself to read all of the comments in this thread. Election exhaustion is definitely a thing right now.)
posted by anaelith at 4:07 AM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the answers. Am a bit surprised by some of them! Not to be combative but maybe a post to MetaTalk is in order :-)
If I have the energy.

Thanks specially for the maps of the county-by-county breakdown and the recommendations of reading material.
posted by glasseyes at 12:20 PM on November 18, 2012

As a lefty with a very right-leaning in law, my experience has been that's it's really for the best leaving the political stuff off Facebook. You are not going to accomplish anything by posting on Facebook other than pissing off your relatives. And then what? It's miserable having a fight over something so stupid and your bride gets caught in the middle between her parents and her new husband which is a really sucky place to be. We had a blow up like this in my family and three years on and nobody's gotten over it. It has caused my parents especially an enormous amount of anxiety and sadness.

So leave Facebook alone. You really want to help? Do something else. Volunteer for a local candidate or for a women's health organization or for an environmental organization or for an anti-poverty organization. Doing something like that might actually make a difference in the world. Posting on Facebook won't persuade anyone but will piss people off.
posted by bananafish at 3:52 PM on November 18, 2012

Hi. I'm making a last post here in response to a AskMefi automatic follow-up.

I was kind of shocked by the answers, particularly by the assumption that I wanted to point and laugh at "ignorant Americans". There's nothing in my posting history that would support such an opinion. To me, the graphic was a piece of information I would normally share as something I didn't know about but have a stake in, and my question was, how would my new in-laws be likely to take it showing up in my personal feed? Some of the answers were incredibly defensive and, in my opinion, off-topic and aggressive. After corresponding with the mods I decided not to post what I was feeling in order not to provoke a shitstorm in AskMe.

Well, I was certainly answered. But the answers make me feel I probably won't find Metafilter the safe, thoughtful cyber-space I previously imagined it could be. The defensive insularity....sure, I certainly understand better how my in-laws might take it when I post an honest opinion. But I'm much more worried now about how my daughter is going to make a life for herself and her child in the USA. Will she even be able to? Much as I love and appreciate my SIL, I wonder.
posted by glasseyes at 7:57 PM on December 17, 2012

btw I think jenben always says sensible things.
posted by glasseyes at 8:02 PM on December 17, 2012

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