October 6th, 2012

Mind Your Facebook Etiquette During An Election Year

by Jacqueline Whitmore

by Guest Blogger, Jorie Scholnik

First Lady Michelle Obama recently visited the University of Florida to deliver a campaign speech to the faculty, staff and students and I was fortunate enough to attend and take some photos. After the event, I wondered what might happen if I posted a picture of my experience on my Facebook wall. In other words, would I receive a barrage of comments that come with any political status update, picture or cartoon?

During this election year, Facebook has been flooded with political opinions. People are hurling insults left and right, sometimes very personal ones, without regard for other people’s feelings. After some thought, I decided to post the picture on Facebook anyway, but it made me consider the following etiquette tips I wish everyone would follow:

Avoid posting controversial status updates and pictures just to get a reaction. If you know that a Facebook post is insensitive or will anger some people, there is no reason to post it. Just like you learned to never start a fight on the playground growing up, the same holds true in the virtual world.

Alter your news feed settings if necessary. If you’re tired of reading a Facebook friend’s constant political updates, alter your settings so that the posts don’t appear on your news feed. Your Facebook friend won’t know their updates don’t appear and you won’t burn any bridges.

You don’t have to get the last word. People have very strong opinions about subjects including the economy, taxes and pro-life issues. If you feel the need to insert your opinion (respectfully, of course), say it once and move on to avoid escalating the altercation. Just because someone responds last doesn’t make that person right.

Don’t turn a political opinion into a personal one. There is a huge difference between insulting a candidate and insulting your friend. Negative comments about your friend’s intelligence, income level or tolerance to certain groups will linger past the election and might cost you your friendship.

When in doubt, remember that silence is golden. If you aren’t well-versed on a political issue or you are not sure if your comment will be taken too far by others, it’s better to remain silent. You can’t get into any trouble if you don’t say anything on Facebook.

Jorie Scholnik currently works as an assistant professor at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida, where she teaches career classes and leads an etiquette club. She has also been working under the direction of Jacqueline Whitmore at The Protocol School of Palm Beach for the past six years. She earned her master’s degree in counseling and her undergraduate degrees in public relations and psychology from the University of Florida. You can follow her on Twitter @JorieScholnik.

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