It’s election season again and I’m beginning to notice that more and more of you have political opinions now, and you’re expressing them more too compared to prior cycles. Well, the fact that you guys care more about politics than ever is great. I want you to continue participating in the political process, I want you to be effective advocates, and most importantly I want you win friends and truly influence people.
But honestly, above all of that I’m tired of seeing bad content. I’m seeing C or D-grade content from people that have the potential to be making straight A’s with maybe an occasional B or two among their posts. Worse than that though is the garbage posts, and the garbage posters that make money off this crap. I’m sick of horrible misinformation, lies, and the misuse of scientific as well as economic data to advance agendas. I’m fed up terrible news sites getting traffic and money. I want it to stop. Over the course of this election I’m going to fight back against bad content by creating great content and helping others do the same.
To that end I’d like to give you guys a few tips about making quality political posts that win people over and bring them together. Creating great content is less about what you should do, and if I told you what you should do, it could limit you and your creativity from creating and sharing a truly awesome, resonant post. Instead, a lot more of quality posting revolves around what you shouldn’t do, and what you shouldn’t do is alienate people, insult them, or attempt to divide them. Posts that do that can be popular, they can garner a lot of likes and comments, but they’re typically not effective. Instead they’re just loudly resonating through an echo chamber. Heard and repeated by those who agree, and utterly ignored by those would disagree. Which is sad, because the people you disagree with are the very people you should be attempting to influence.
So what exactly alienates people? There are several common examples that I’m sure you’ve seen and may even be guilty of; and if you are, don’t worry, I’ve probably committed at least one of these posting sins myself at some point too. The biggest offender in the alienation category is “If you support candidate X then unfriend me.” or its issue based equivalent “If you’re for/against issue Y, then unfriend me.” Even worse is the insult based variation of this, “You’re an idiot if you support candidate/issue Z, jump off a bridge and unfriend me if you do.”
If you haven’t seen this kind of post you’re lucky, you’ve either got really considerate friends, or they just don’t care about politics. Hopefully more of the former and less of the latter. Regardless, at this point you may be thinking “Why would I want racists, bigots, sexists, and other people with opposing viewpoints as my friends?” The answer to that is people and their views can change with time. This fact is why these posts are a bad idea. This type of alienating, negative post and the behavior associated with it sets people up to be against you personally, and if they actually do unfriend you, it reduces the size of your potential audience.
If people unfriend you, it can be detrimental to your effectiveness and reach as an activist in the long term. If anyone interacts with your posts all of their friends can see that interaction too, so you’ve not only lost that individual from your audience, but quite possibly all of their friends too. This is massively damaging to the spread of any positive, resonant message that they might one day sympathize with, so we must be as careful as possible that our content doesn’t alienate people.
Ultimately, alienation is one of the larger reasons that people stop participating in politics. They don’t feel connected to it, others made them feel out of place, and consequentially they just don’t care about who wins, or what happens, and when this occurs its very sad. When this happens to people it’s almost like they’ve self-extinguished their own internal lantern of hope. The fact though is when people lose hope, they’re largely affected by circumstances outside of their control, like a gusty torrent of negativity that puts out the lantern’s light. Instead of letting this happen, let’s try to be positive and inclusive. Take some time to lean in and listen to others, bring some light into their lives. Bring their concerns front and center in front of the world and you just might be the person to relight the lantern of their life.