How To Deal With Your Politically Active Relative On Social Media

The Internet has been around long enough to prove that there’s no more important place to watch your back, and your history.

It’s almost scarier than a solo stroll down a dark alleyway, in the sense that the World Wide Web is a living, breathing trail of evidence and info that follows you 24/7 no matter how swiftly you try to shake it off.

What you type, post, photograph and share is a permanent record for all to see. “Deleted” does not mean eternally erased. You are judged by your social media presence for better or for worse, and the only person who can control that image is you.

Does this sound familiar?

It’s the spiel our parents, teachers and coaches taught us during the AOL and MySpace middle school days. Those superiors then advised us again to hide our teenage drinking photos for the college application process and to protect our tweets during the post-grad job hunt.

For the most part, those lectures taught us well. There’s hardly as many social media mishaps with 20-somethings these days because we were trained from the start (part instinct and ability to quickly pick up on digital knowledge, part being scared-to-death from the constant warnings).

What’s funny to me is that the roles have reversed today. Teens and young adults post thoughtful, inspiring and adventurous content. Stuff to be proud of, stuff to share. But parents and grandparents? A total free-for-all. And I’m not just talking about a timeline filled with blurry flip phone photos or excessive exclamation points, but unedited, unfiltered opinions that they may or may not know the true outcome.

We’re talkin’ politics, and it’s bad. Real bad.

Gut check: Is it just me? Am I the only one with an AWOL parent on social media who comments on each and every political story no matter the news source? Local, national, international, you name it. Friends or strangers? Yup, they’ve surely been offended by my right-wing parent by this point in the political race.

I recently sat around a round table at the ad agency where I work on a Friday afternoon. The few 20-somethings who occupy our space sat with me, and together we flipped through a Donald Trump section of Vanity Fair, commenting lightly on the overall campaign, but without expressing a strong opinion about a particular candidate.

My 26-year-old coworker spoke up as the pages turned and said, “Guys, I have to admit something pretty terrible.” We looked around and nodded for her to continue.

“My dad is a huge Trump fan.”

Quicker than you can say, “Live from New York it’s Saturday night,” our heads popped up with bright eyes full of relief and a little bit of shared embarrassment.

“Mine too, mine too!”

Phew, I’m not alone. There are probably a lot of factors that contribute to the fathers of the 518 liking America’s Republican presidential nominee. Though New York is traditionally and overwhelmingly red, the middle/upper class earners in our region often favor the fiscal policies and views of the GOP and tend to vote, and express their opinions accordingly.

But what’s the deal with the nonstop, online political commentary? It’s OK to have an opinion, and yes, it is OK to share it, but Facebook is not the place to host the American People’s Great Debate of 2016.

facebook

To scroll through your newsfeed to find a slew of misspelled, accusatory, racist/sexist and overall inappropriate comments is a virtual punch in the stomach, no matter who’s posting it. It’s hard to believe people can treat or speak to others in this way, even online, where we know social media enables cowardly people to voice their opinion with a screen to protect them.

It seems as though the fundamentals of politics, and you know, being free, being an American and treating people with respect and equality, are totally ignored in these instances. It’s elementary knowledge that this behavior does not accomplish a goal. Not a single goal.

LGBT? A fan of women’s rights? Someone owes an apology to you, and you, and you for the inexcusable behavior of mine and many other people’s family members who post childish, nasty political comments on the Internet for all to see.

Whether it’s Grandma Nancy down in Florida or your own conservative next-of-kin right here in the Northeast, us younger, educated folks have got to step in and teach them a lesson. So do yourself (for the sake of your namesake) and your family a favor, scroll to the top of this post and read ’em the spiel.

We can’t stop our elders who are less tech-savvy from posting this nonsense, but we can at least do our part to make them aware of the rights and wrongs.