Since joining Facebook in April 2007, one thing I like using it for is keeping in touch, sometimes connecting, with many American friends, colleagues and acquaintances. They’re typically a lively crowd, lots of commentary and opinion on topics of mutual interest and discovery. It’s always a pleasure to see who’s saying what.
This week, though, it’s not been much fun at all because of politics. Specifically, increasingly polarized opinion about the candidates (and their policies) for the US presidential election in November – a hot topic that’s the dominant feature of the American political conventions season at the moment.
But it’s not just polarized opinion, much of it is also nasty to boot. I really have been alarmed to see what some of my friends have been saying in their status updates or in replies to others.
It seems like a zero-tolerance policy rules if someone’s political opinion differs from yours, with some people getting really ugly about it.
I mused on Twitter last night about leaving Facebook because of this. Olivier Blanchard suggested unfriending people for the duration rather than quitting Facebook (while, with tongue in cheek, Donna Papacosta acknowledged the obnoxiousness of it all).
I’d rather not unfriend people. I’d almost decided to take a holiday from Facebook until after the November election – just not go there at all – when an attractive solution presented itself via Jeremy Pepper.
Jeremy tweeted a post on ZDNet – perfectly titled “How to tune out your politically sanctimonious friends on Facebook” – by Jason Perlow that offers a good alternative to either quitting Facebook, unfriending people or just staying away, in the shape of Socialfixer.
A browser add-on, Socialfixer gives you a method of configuring your Facebook friends’ stream to “tune out” anything that matches key words and phrases you create that act as filters.
As I’m interested in tuning-out only the stuff about current American politics, I followed Jason’s excellent setup how-to and configuration recommendations including what key words and phrases to use.
And, I’m pleased to note, I now have a stream of content from American (and some Canadian) friends on Facebook that largely hides all the crap of the type I’ve been seeing this week.
Socialfixer’s not perfect by any means – its success is broadly related to how accurate the key words and phrases are that you set up for filtering. But if you want a way of largely hiding the stuff you define as what you don’t want to see, it’s not a bad solution. And it does a great deal more than just key-word filtering.
It doesn’t matter if you’re American or any other nationality, Socialfixer’s a good way to tune the politics out of Facebook. For a while at least.