Just shut it down
Facebook is my favourite platform to discuss, debate or just straight up pick a fight. There’s no character limitation, I can call on my social media bubble besties to back me up if things get heated and generally people are less inclined to start throwing abusive slurs around if they’re commenting under their own name, rather than from behind a faceless egg.
The only drawback to Facebook debates is that my mum is on there. And my boyfriend’s mum. And that really nice woman who insists on responding to every post about climate change with quotes from Revelation. And that random guy I worked with for 2 weeks who doesn’t believe in vaccinations but is BFFs with my sister’s boss. Basically Facebook is full of people who turn an interesting debate into the kind of argument that I would dry-swallow my own phone to avoid.
So with this in mind, here are the 5 worst people to fight with on Facebook and my strategy for neutralising them (assuming that you actually do want to stay on their good side)…
This person means well but they are terrified of any kind of conflict. Whenever there’s a good discussion starting on a status they’ll steamroll into the comments with plaintive pleas of “let’s just be nice/can’t we all get along?/please be respectful” and after a while everyone gives up. The worst thing about this is that you can’t just suggest they STFU because that would be rude.
Solution: managing to both endorse and dismiss the politeness pedant’s concerns in one go requires a double-pronged attack. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the tone of this discussion but thanks for reminding us to be respectful” on the post, followed by DMing them a distraction link to a different fight on a different status, eg. maybe someone on a Comment is Free post has started comparing Mary Berry to Hitler re. her stance on shop bought icing.
Sometimes a useful ally, sometimes a complete pain in the ass. This is someone who supports you when you’re arguing on a mutual acquaintance’s status that, actually, abortion is not a “lifestyle choice”. But then a few days later they’re picking you up on a grammatical error or misuse of a legal term. Which firstly makes it look like you don’t know what you’re talking about because a supposed-ally is arguing with you, and secondly derails all chance for interesting debate around the issue.
Solution: I either make sure we’re debating in the replies (so it’s only visible to people who click “see replies” rather than a tortured series of comments) or call in reinforcements. If you can’t tell the faux-ally that they’re derailing the conversation and just generally being an arse, there’s always someone else who is happy to steam in there and do it, leaving you to play peacekeeper while sending them dancing lady emojis.
There is nothing quite as terrifying as getting a notification from a family member on a status you know they probably won’t like. Family disputes have a way of blurring the lines between Facebook and real life: you may think you’re posting about the UK’s refugee quota but Uncle Colin will find a way to link it back to the fact that you never thanked Aunt Rosie for that £10 WHSmith voucher. Likewise a Facebook argument that you thought had finished back in March will resurface at a family gathering in November.
Solution: you could just not add family members in the first place, but my tactic is to always take it offline. If a family member is arguing with my friends that’s fine, my friends can take care of themselves. But if they’re arguing with me I’m on the phone or, when possible, soothing ruffled feathers in person. And then adding them to my restricted list.
This is a usually perfectly nice, normal person who is just waiting for you to share an article on something they consider to be their area of expertise. At which point they switch into full-on lecture mode. It doesn’t matter if there are other people with more direct experiences of the issue in the conversation, this commenter is primed with flawed insights and they’re not going to miss an opportunity to share them.
Solution: depending on the topic I either tag in one of my friends who knows far more about the issues under discussion (I have a junior politician on my list who is almost lyrical in the way they dispatch self-styled experts on EU law). Or if it’s a bit more personal I simply add the person to one of my restricted lists. So far these lists include “Don’t share abortion stuff,” “concern trolls re. obesity” and “keep away from immigration” It’s not a perfect system but it helps minimise awkward conversations on Facebook and, by extension, IRL.
This person usually doesn’t know anyone else on your friends list and so will completely misinterpret the entire tone of every discussion. Joking about grabbing a cheeky Nandos? They’re going to keep sending you links to articles about battery farmed hens until you cry blood. Got a friend making a serious point about the stigmatization of mental illness? This is the person who pops up with “all this MH stuff drives me nuts 😉 😉 ;)”.
Solution: burning down their house and posting photos to Facebook usually ends in bad blood with someone who for 99% of the year is just pleasant background noise in your life. So my preference is to shut the whole thing down by making the first link visible only to them, then resharing it with the same text, but a privacy status of “Friends except [name.]” Maybe a little bit harsh, but it’s usually the only way to get your Facebook page back.
Main image via giphy