As a journalist, I don’t talk about my political views in public forums — Facebook, Twitter, or even on the bumper of my car. No stickers. No campaigning. No contributions anywhere, ever. We’re not permitted. The press should remain impartial. I was having a conversation last year with my friend Len Downie, former executive editor of The Washington Post and current VP, and he said he doesn’t even vote for presidential candidates. He said he works hard not to form an opinion about the people his newspaper covers. (Then again, Downie is a man who has been summoned to the White House by the president for chats about said newspaper stories, so his issues are on another level.)
I’m a registered Independent. If someone wants to talk about politics or religion at dinner, I ask them about their shoes. And yet, Facebook. Facebook and politics. Facebook and people announcing their politics. Facebook and people announcing they plan to unfriend one another over politics. Facebook and the number of my friends who like Mitt Romney. Facebook and the number of my friends who like Obama. Facebook and my family and politics.
It would be so much better not to know.
Growing up, the mayor lived on our street, along with a town councilman. During election season, my friends had Cooper! Berman! campaign signs staked into their front lawns, and I asked my mother why our lawn was always empty. My parents weren’t journalists, but I know they thought it was important to vote.
My mother said the signs were ungraceful. She said that a Cooper! Berman! sign in someone’s front lawn wasn’t going to change the way she planned to vote. And she didn’t want those signs to change the way she thought about the people who lived in those houses — or allow a sign to dictate the way that people thought about her.
Facebook is the new front lawn.
I’m keeping quiet – as a journalist, and as a daughter of a graceful, keen Mom. What do you think? Will friends’ political posts on Facebook sway your vote? Or will it sway the way you think about your friends?
I kissed a Democrat/Republican gum from Design*Lab in Mesa. In my house, we have both kinds. Because Tyson and I? We’re not voting for the same person. And neither of us wants to talk about it.