Suzetter Porter sig

I’m not a social media fanatic, but I do enjoy spending time with my friends on Facebook — even those whose political thinking doesn’t align with mine.

I admit I often think when reading some of the posts that I would describe as mostly derogatory, how it is I can stay friends with that person. I find myself enraged by posts that challenge my opinions and ashamed of the way those that are like-minded express themselves.

I have to remind myself of the qualities that made me “like” them as friends in the first place.

I joined Facebook many years ago after a rare trip to Arkansas where I connected with friends I hadn’t seen or heard from in a long time. They encouraged me to join Facebook so we could stay in touch.

Over the years, I’ve connected with friends from high school and college, as well as people I’ve met since moving to Pinellas County. I’ve befriended people from across the United States and around the world.

Facebook has proven to be a way to stay in touch with a lot of people. It is really the only way I can stay connected with those who live far away. I get a chance to be a part of their lives through good times and bad. Some even show me what they had for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

It all sounds good, and it is, except for politics and an increasingly prevalent tendency to share posts that make fun of others.

This brings me to the subject of this column: how to survive social media and keep as many friends as you can. My trick is to scroll on by when you see things that offend you.

Sadly, your Republican friends post hateful things about Democrats and Democrats do the same with their adversaries. Conservatives and liberals face off in ways that don’t come close to a healthy debate and just feed the fires of conflict.

Do not engage. Do not waste your time typing a response either way. You won’t change any minds by engaging in hateful commentary. You won’t gain any friends or score any points by agreeing with those who share your views, but do so in a mean and ugly way.

You will, however, increase your stress level. I don’t know about you, but I don’t find it very healthy to engage in social activities I don’t like. I go to Facebook to enjoy time with my friends, not to debate. When you socialize, go to a party or out to eat, do you expect to spend your time arguing? I don’t think so.

And please ignore those posts that make fun of people. Nothing good can come from laughing at others because of their clothes or circumstances. Scroll on by. Instead, “like” those showing acceptance of differences and give examples of how others are helping those who need it.

I have to confess I make one exception to my scroll-on-by rule. I find it difficult to pass up correcting those posts containing fake news or shares of news stories that are many years old. You know the ones. Stories about movie stars that died years ago or laws that were passed in the past that sound brand new in a post today.

When I see news stories being posted, I actually click the link and look at the date. If no date accompanies the story, I do a search to see if it is something recent. I also question any news source that doesn’t bother to include a date with their stories.

When I find posts of out-of-date news that people are busy commenting on as if it were new, I can’t help but post my own comment that simply says, “This story is out of date.” Then I provide the year it actually happened. If I’m feeling grumpy, I might even add, “Click the link, people, and actually read the story before you go off with your opinions.”

Posts with stories or memes that sound untrue may take a little more time. Maybe it’s the journalist in me, but I have trouble believing “facts” without any attribution and I even question some that contain a source. It’s not that difficult to do a quick search and see if something is true. If it’s not, I post a few links to legitimate news stories that I believe are factual.

If everyone questioned the facts on Facebook and checked them out before sharing, “fake news” could become much less prevalent. It irks me when people pass on crap without making sure what they share is true.

As I said in the beginning, I enjoy Facebook and the ability to keep in touch with friends, but some days I find I’m scrolling more than I’m reading, which is pretty sad. So I’ll share one last survival tip.

Join at least one group that makes you happy. I like cats, so I joined a group devoted to cats and their owners. Nothing boosts my mood more than a post full of kitten photos.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly