It’s a U.S. election year, which means that many people are campaigning on Facebook and Twitter. Trump supporters and Trump haters are expressing their opinions. Fans of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are both making cases for their candidates.
A presidential election is a big deal (so are Congressional and state elections, by the way), and it’s natural that emotions are running high. But part of me cringes when I see tactics that not only spread negativity, but seem likely to make people actually run away from your candidate.
Most of the people you are talking to on Facebook and Twitter already know who they want to vote for. While most of them will respect your right to post something political, your chances of influencing someone are slim. This is one of the reasons that many people choose not to post about the election at all, even if they feel strongly about a particular candidate.
However, if you want people to consider your candidate, here are some tactics that are likely to fail.
1. Insulting people for preferring the candidate of their choice.
I don’t care how much you hate that other candidate: calling his or her supporters idiots, hateful, naive, or any other insult will never persuade them to change their minds. How well would that work for you?
Person: You’re a bad person and a moron for liking that candidate.
You: Oh my gosh, you’re right! Okay, I hate them now. Thanks!
It’s true that this tactic might shut people up, because they don’t want you yelling at them. It’s likely to only strengthen their resolve to show up at the polls and vote for the candidate of their choice.
But what if you’re not trying to persuade them? What if you’re just posting about how stupid they are as a means of venting your frustration, or in hopes of hurting them? That’s your business, but honestly, I think it will only make you feel more sour.
2. Launching frequent attacks on the opposing candidate — especially heated ones.
When you keep up a steady stream of attacks, what you want to happen is for people to think, “Wow, I guess my candidate isn’t so great, after all.”
What will probably happen is that people will think, “Wow, I guess this Facebook friend/person on Twitter isn’t so great, after all.”
3. Maligning the opposing candidate for superficial or irrelevant reasons.
Criticizing a politician for their clothing, hairstyle, voice, height, age, gender, or other irrelevant reasons lowers political discourse to a middle school level. It may also reinforce feelings of shame or insecurity in others who hear it.
There’s never, ever a good reason to make fun of the way someone looks or dresses. When you do it, you run the risk of people thinking you don’t actually have any substantive criticisms of the candidate.
4. Leaving angry comments on other people’s Facebook posts.
Remember, arguing with someone on their post only bumps their post up in the Facebook feed for more people to see. And chances are good that those people will only read the original post and not your comment.
But reasonable debate has its place, and a great way to tell if that place on your Facebook friend’s post is to ask them politely, “Do you mind some debate?” If they say they don’t feel like it, or they ignore you, it’s probably best to drop it.
A person’s Facebook page is their space. Although it’s not the same from a legal standpoint, to me, leaving a heated comment on their political post feels a little like going into their front yard and writing mean comments on their political sign with a Sharpie. In this case, though, it’s easy to delete your input.
So what does work? Again, on social media, not much does. But if you want to advocate for your candidate, your best bet is to share positive and specific things you like about them.
Alternately, just let your allegiance be known, and go around being a kind and awesome person in general. Who knows? Maybe someone will think: “Hey, s/he’s cool, and s/he’s voting for that candidate. Maybe that candidate isn’t so bad!”
While not everyone can do it, the best ways to help a candidate are donations and volunteering. For instance, lots of voters have trouble getting to the polls, sometimes because they are elderly or because they don’t have a car. Driving people to their voting place is a great way to give your support.
Do you have any thoughts about political talk on social media? I’d love to hear. Thanks for reading!