The Psychology of Talking Politics on Facebook



You can say there are three certainties in life: death, taxes and the fact that you will lose friends if you talk about politics on Facebook. After being un-friended by multiple people (sometimes later re-friended so they can shoot back another attack), I decided to look for some advice on how to best discuss political issues online. The one thing everyone seems to agree on? Don’t do it.


So now I guess it’s time to let you in on a little secret: I don’t discuss politics on Facebook to change anybody’s mind. It is a fundamental fact of human nature that you will NEVER change anyone’s opinion on anything in an argument, even if you bring dozens of irrefutable facts to the table and they have nothing more than what they heard on Saturday Night Live (yes, that has actually happened). So why do I bother? Besides being naturally more interested in extremely important, world-changing (and often bad) decisions being made by our country’s leaders than that picture of the taco you had for dinner, there is principle I learned in business that I like apply. It’s called: Market Noise.


In business, it is known that you advertise not only to sell your own product, but to keep your competitors from selling more of theirs (also called: preserving market share). For example if Coke stopped advertising and people only saw ads with celebrities saying how wonderful Pepsi is, people will naturally start assuming the Coke is passé and Pepsi is the “it” thing that everybody hip and cool drinks.


You: Do you want a Coke or a Pepsi?

Young Person: Coke? Are you kidding? Only old people drink Coke these days!

You: But I like the flavor . . .

Young Person: *smirks* Looks like someone is still living in the 1950s!


In business terms, Pepsi ads are very effective because they are heard loud and clear by the consumer with no competing “noise” from other competitors.


Now let’s say that Coke realizes their mistake and starts advertising as much as Pepsi does. The soft drink marketplace will get very “noisy” from competing advertisements and people will start naturally tuning both of them out and go back to whatever they were doing/drinking before.


So how does this relate to politics? Currently in the United States, everyone is by default a liberal because their teachers are liberals, the movies are liberal, the TV shows are liberal, the news is extremely liberally biased and it is just plain darn easier (read: lazier) to be a liberal (“Hey that’s a pretty serious problem . . . the government should do something about it!”).


You can say that our current pop culture is all singing the same song and God help anyone who whistles a different tune (it’s been scientifically proven that it is more socially acceptable to tell people that they have sex with their mom than to wear a Bush t-shirt that didn’t have a Hitler mustache). It’s as if Pepsi ads not only promoted themselves but also portrayed all Coke drinkers to be inbred racist religious freaks that believe that Jesus rode around on a Triceratops with an AK-47 strapped to his back with a belt made from unicorn skin.


The solution? Start making noise. At first it will be difficult because many people have been well trained to call anyone who stands for traditional moral values a hateful homophobe. But if you stick to the facts, soon people will get confused because all the evidence you bring up clashes with what pop culture is telling them to believe. Frustration and annoyance is a common result of this confusion (also known as “cognitive dissonance”). Finally, many people will throw their hands up in the air, announce they don’t like politics (anymore) and then go back to posting pictures of their tacos.


So there you have it. You now know my secret that when I post some new political fact on Facebook, I don’t really have any expectation to change your mind. I’m simply trying to counteract the flood of liberal groupthink messaging by creating a little noise. Maybe, just maybe, enough people will tune out and therefore won’t be so quickly taken in when pop culture starts telling people that if you don’t believe anyone can pick their own gender then you must be a racist close-minded Coke drinker still living in the 1950s.