Like most guys past our prime, when I play hoops I allow myself to believe I'm moving and shooting at some semblance of professional skill, not all that different from my favorite NBA stars. And though I am clearly deluding myself, no one is hurt for having seen me spaz out on an alley-oop gone horribly wrong.
Similarly, Facebook and Twitter have become the pickup basketball games of politics. People on social media seem to think they are debating issues like their favorite TV and radio pundits. Yet we are as far from pros at how we play politics as we are at sports. You may think your testy bickering and schoolyard name-calling resemble the witty political banter of a “Real Time with Bill Maher” panel, when in fact you're exhibiting the intellect of a “Real Housewives” catfight.
Here are six of the most amateur moves that bad Facebook pundits make. If you're guilty of more than two of these a week, you really should avoid political threads and stick to posts about your favorite pets and meals.
1) Argument by invectives. As most mature adults know, calling your ideological counterpart "stupid," "moron," "idiot," or an "a-hole" is not political discourse, it’s just spewing rage. But Facebook politics can take immaturity to a whole new stratosphere. Words like "libtard," “conserviturd” and "Obummer" (and the dozens of dirtier variations) only prove that you are a biased hater. Even professional venom spewers like husband and wife TV pundits James Carville and Mary Matalin don't go there on their worst day (which seems to be every day).
I mean, really: Libtard? Why would anyone with an iota of sensitivity want to adapt the word "retard" as a persuasive linguistic tool?
Similarly, terms like Faux News or MSLSD show all the wit of a “girl from Nantucket” limerick. If you like to use the Rush Limbaugh-inspired pejorative "low-information voter," let me inform you that the term harkens back to the Jim Crow literacy tests bigots once used to suggest that minorities were too dumb to vote. With all due respect to your superior news gathering skills, in America no one is considered too uniformed to vote. Besides, listening to hours of Rush everyday doesn’t make you a high-information voter. It means either you’re unemployed or your car doesn’t have FM radio.
And if you are still invoking the names Palin, Rumsfeld, Alinsky, or Lewinsky in any context, your political wisdom is stuck on Throwback Thursday.
2) Ganging up on the lone dissenter. It amazes me how people who are probably polite and considerate in real life will gladly turn a Facebook thread into Lord of the Flies. FB pundits love to gang up on the lone voice of reason and turn her into the thread’s pariah. Then they talk about the dissenter in the third person (as if behind her back), freely mocking her while touting their own superior intellect in a sad attempt to shore up their shared warped opinions. Their logic being, "My comment got 5 likes and hers only got 2, so I must be right!"
3) Torch throwing. This is the art of posting a short, snarky opinion over a blatantly biased article link and letting mob mentality run wild underneath. The original poster knows that the incendiary article headline (which is usually at odds with the facts) will elicit a venomous free-for-all from his like-minded FB friends, so he posts it and sits back to watch the sparks fly. Then he orgasms to get 84 Likes and 357 comments on one of his threads, unaware that 84 Likes still leaves him in the minor leagues of Facebook relevance, as any baby-and-pet-sleeping-together video will beat that out a thousand times over.
4) Argument by graphics. It's easy to Share the latest colorful graphic about some poor schnook who accidentally discharged his Glock in his pants or about CEO pay versus the minimum wage, but are you really saying anything? We get it – guns go off when they shouldn't and corporate executives earn more than they should. You aren't adding to the well of knowledge with cartoons or visual statistics that prove an already accepted point.
And if you’re into posting graphics of pithy historical quotes, save us some bandwidth and just retype it yourself. I don’t need a portrait of FDR to figure out that the words between the quote marks came from him.
5) Broken Record Syndrome. Arguments that harken back to any event prior to 2008 indicate you are stuck in a time loop of history. Anything pertaining to Dick Cheney's war crimes, the Florida recount, Bill Clinton's sex life, or The Rose Law Firm, should not appear in your 2014 timeline. Even dropping pre-2014 tag-lines like Fast and Furious, Bridgegate, or Benghazi can come off like Cousin Brucie playing the golden oldies. Yes, bad thinks happen in the world. But we should deal with them and move on, not replay them on Facebook with the same frequency that "The Big Bang Theory" runs on cable.
Similarly, dropping phrases like "without a single Republican vote" or "lying us into war" suggest you are not so much debating as brooding.
6) Harping. Your social media presence should reflect your daily life, and life is full of kittens and kisses and cute kids and Sopranos reruns – the wonderful things that happen to real people who don't live in Washington, D.C.
If more than 20% of your posts are about how President Obama or The Koch Brothers are destroying the very fabric of your world, your world needs a few shots of tequila...and maybe some good old-fashioned psychotherapy.