As sociologists, many of us are deeply involved in work on politically-relevant issues in our professional lives, but we hesitate to bring them into our personal worlds. It can be daunting to confront your most stubborn relatives or involve the family members who still think you’re a psychologist. Still, there is a lot to be gained from engaging the people you care for the most on topics related to your version of sociology. Changing hearts and minds isn’t impossible and bringing more of your political academic ideologies to Facebook is one way to do that. To help you, I offer my guiding principles for political Facebook engagement.
- Pick a couple of issues that really matter to you and post about them the most (e.g., your research area). This helps your friends and family follow along with how you think about them and grow alongside you. No one article is going to transform the way anyone thinks about anything, but a bunch of articles spread out with room to think about them can do exactly that.
- Fact check. I don’t post memes very often because I don’t want to devote energy to fact checking them. Instead, I rely on a handful of reputable sources to produce articles I can trust–and when I’m getting something from somewhere else, I check the validity of whatever that thing is with those sources (or places meant for fact checking like Snopes.com). Op-eds and thought pieces are somewhat exempt from this rule–unless they’re sharing facts alongside the perspective offered, which many are.
- When you post an article, share what about it made you want to post it. You can use a direct quote from the article or write your own explanation of why whatever you’re posting matters to you. This, too, helps your friends see your perspective. (And it’s a more compelling reason to keep reading than a catchy headline–your Facebook friends care about you more than the issues you discuss.)
- Move your online discussions offline. If there was an article that really stuck out to you and it has been on your mind all day, bring it up with your friends in person, too!
- Don’t get discouraged if something you post isn’t getting the likes you hoped for. A lot of people engage with Facebook posts without leaving any marker for you that they were there. Most people who reach out to me to say that they appreciate my Facebook political work are people who have never liked anything I have ever posted.
- Know when to give your friends a reprieve. For me, that means I don’t post any article that more than five of my friends have already posted. Unless, of course, those five friends are all in the same social group and everyone else still needs to hear about whatever is going on.
- Remember to post updates about your personal life, too! For anyone to care about what you care about, they probably have to care about you. It doesn’t invalidate your political work in any way to also be a person and share the things that make you a person online.
- Afraid of the Facebook fights to ensue? I wrote an article on that, too.
Have any additional advice for doing sociology on Facebook? Share it in the comments!