1. Select Appropriate Topics and Venues
When you open your Facebook or Twitter accounts, you will likely find a whole host of political discussions, memes, images and rants all over your feed. Probably the best advice for engagement is to realize that you are not obligated to correct every mistake, teach everyone who seems misguided, or argue with anyone who proposes a debate topic. With this idea in mind, you can freely select the various campaign proposals and positions in any particular venue that you like. You might decide to engage people on your own turf by sharing news stories or asking questions, or you may prefer to argue with others in a group that is not directly connected to your personal account.
The trouble with debating with your friends is that too many people are just waiting to see what you write so that they can refute it. When you first start out in a forum or reading an ongoing discussion, make it a point to read everything that has been posted in the thread. This will make you more informed about the conversation, since no one wants to be the one who starts replying to a tangent four hours after everyone else moved on. It will also give you a chance to size up your competition. Post a few well-placed comments and see what happens.
3. Distinguish Opponents from Trolls
Unless you decide to go arguing in an echo chamber, you should expect most people to disagree with you. Your trick is to separate out your opponents from the trolls who thrive off nothing other than yanking your chain. There’s a simple way to set them apart:
- Opponents: treat you like a reasonable person, even if they find your point disagreeable
- Trolls: oppose everything you say, mock you personally and may send you threatening messages
In just a few short months, the people on social media will turn back from rabid squirrels into the friends and family you still want to know and love. Keep that in mind as you peruse the various political topics on Facebook and Twitter. With the right goals in mind, you can engage people without being trolled (or becoming one).