“Why don’t you like my post?” Americans keep it apolitical on Facebook

Egyptian protesters in Tahrir Square in 2011 celebrate Facebook's contribution to the Arab Spring. (Photo by Essam Sharaf via Flickr)

Millions of people around the globe are on Facebook. But when she moved to Northwest from Sri Lanka earlier this year, Frederica Jansz found out that the way people post here is completely different.

I became an active user of Facebook only after I migrated to America.

I had an account for a few years back in Sri Lanka, but until now I rarely had the time or the inclination to respond to posts, comments or share what was on my mind. But Facebook for me in America has turned out to be a whole new, and refreshing, experience.

I have only about a hundred “friends,” both American and Sri Lankan. But their posts are as different as salt and pepper.

Sri Lankans will immediately like and share any kind of post or video without reservation. Many of them clicked eagerly on a recent post about the son of a hated government minister who had been stabbed in the parking lot of a posh retail store in Colombo, liking and sharing the news with glee.

On the other hand, Americans seem to rarely — if ever — respond to such political posts.

When I recently posted what I thought was a very apt clip of Mindy Kaling in her refreshingly sly way critiquing the lack of representation of Asian women in Hollywood, (despite the fact that “there are literally billions of us”) my post got ONE measly like, from my Sri Lankan girl friend who now lives in Scotland!

(From "The Mindy Project" Season 1)

Another post sharing videos of an embarrassing interview Fox News carried with Religions Scholar Reza Aslan and another, of Russell Brand on MSNBC mocking American Media, received comments and likes only from Sri Lankans.

On the other hand, posts by an American “friend” on what is on her dinner menu day after day, from kabobs to grilled corn on the cob, get 30 or 40 likes!

photo (3)I know of only one Sri Lankan who would dare to post what he’s eating, but that’s because he is a professional chef! Even he doesn’t get 40 likes.

Similarly, it’s been interesting to observe recently that while Egyptians are being massacred, the rest of us are still posting on Facebook about the different cappuccinos we’ve been enjoying!

I can only conclude that Americans are simply not interested in bringing their politics to Facebook, or do not want to make public their views on anything even remotely political.

Still, Americans do seem to manage to publish controversial posts by accident.

A friend of mine posted one Saturday morning that while she shopped at a popular retail she and her daughter were surprised to count “123 Asians!”

I was tempted to comment that the post reminded me of the time my family and I took a vacation in South Africa and spent one entire morning on Safari counting the number of impala we could spot! But I decided to let this one go.

This same “friend” two days ago posted that she had un-friended someone for posting “a racist comment” on her Facebook page, apologizing profusely to all her other friends who may have been exposed to the unpalatable comment.

I burst out loud — laughing!

Facebook does, of course, allow users to remove comments on their own posts. And you can always block or un-friend people who you no longer have the patience for.

Having myself already blocked a few friends I can tell you it is a super satisfying action. At my age it gets easier to be more selective about who you want to be friends with and to be intolerant of toxic relationships. Especially when you possess an application that allows you to simply click them out of your life — forever!

I was afforded the same treatment by one friend. AND she is American! We have since made-up but in real life remain “un-friended” on FB!

But back to politics: I have another American Facebook friend who is currently running a campaign for a seat on the City Council. But even he does not post any comments that are political. He and I have had heated debates both verbally and via text messaging on the gun culture in America and other issues, he being a Republican and I a fan of Democrats. But he would never post those same comments on Facebook.

I can only conclude that most Americans, at least the ones on my Facebook feed, are worried about hurting somebody and so refrain from posting political or religious comments. Or perhaps their opinions are in constant flux and so they do not want to place on record a comment that could come back to haunt them at a later date?

Or maybe, for Americans Facebook is more a frivolous activity and less of a professional mode of conveying a message. They are certainly in stark contrast to their Sri Lankan counterparts, who use Facebook to post a consistent stream of political and religious material, rarely hesitating to comment or share such posts with gusto.

Either way, with over a billion users around the globe, I guess Facebook offers something for everyone — that is except for teenagers, who have had enough of their parents are hogging the system!

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