What to do when politics and Facebook don't mix

Are your friends annoying you with their stupid political status updates (and vice versa)? Here's what you can do to be shut of them (and vice versa).

I’m sorry, I just can’t take it any more. The political season has gotten to me. I’ve started purging the ‘friends’ on Facebook whose opinions I can no longer stomach.

Now I’m as guilty as anyone of posting political stuff on my various social networks – maybe more guilty than most. And while I’d like to think I’m open to an intelligent debate about the issues, I can’t seem to find one. Everyone’s yelling and nobody’s listening. I have had it with the closet bigots and paranoid conspiracy theorists, as well as those people who seem perfectly willing to believe that the earth is flat and pigs can fly if the right people say so.

So I’ve been purging friends on Facebook and unfollowing people on Twitter. And, though I haven’t checked, I’m almost positive people have been doing the same thing to me.

I did an entirely unscientific survey of my peeps on FB and Twitter, and it seems I’m not alone. Most of my friends have admitted to either blocking political posts from people whose opinions they find not to their liking, or unfriending them outright. Several noted they were unfriended by others as well, though at least one said he actually got a little closer to some long lost high school buddies after engaging them in Facebook political debates.

So that’s something at least. Our great cultural divide brought a few people together.

So I thought there must be tools that let you do what mom always advised us to do: avoid talking about sex, politics, or religion in polite company. And there are, though the news there isn’t entirely great.

You can of course block people on Facebook without defriending them, or selectively block their posts. You can also create custom lists of likeminded people and only fire your political missives in their direction. These things work, but they are a lot of work. I was looking for a more blunt instrument than that, and I found a couple of them.

First I tried the free Noppl extension for Chrome. Noppl stands for No Politics Please, and it’s simple enough to install – just click on the link on that page. If you use Firefox or Internet Explorer, you can also drag a Noppl bookmarklet to your bookmarks bar, then click on it after you log into Facebook.

Unfortunately, No Politics Please was Not Particularly Persuasive. I tried it in Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer, and it didn’t do a damned thing. Political posts showed up unhindered. I was still annoyed. You mileage may vary.

Attempt number two: I installed another Chrome extension called Social Fixer. That one is a much more sophisticated piece of software that works in a wide range of browsers (though not IE) and gives you all kinds of controls over how Facebook looks and acts. The list of things it can do would fill a very long blog post; what I was interested in, though, was its filtering capability.

social fixer filtering 550p.png

Install it in Facebook, and a control panel that looks like a monkey wrench installs in the blue title bar at the top of Facebook. Click that, choose Social Fixer Options, and you open up a world of possibilities. Scroll down to the Filtering section, and you can pick which of your most annoying friends to filter (or not pick any of them, which applies the filter to all) and then add the words you want Social Fixer to look for (like "Obama" or "Romney"). Any posts containing those words can be hidden or placed under a separate tab at the top of your Facebook news feed, if you want to look at them later. They can also be unhidden, if desired.

Another kind of cool feature: Social Fixer will let you know if any of your Facebook peeps have unfriended you lately, assuming you’d want to know.

socialfixer - no longer friends with.png

That’s a quick way to tell if you’ve been as annoying to them with your unsolicited political opinions as they have been to you.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that Social Fixer really is for geeks who are comfortable reaching into Facebook’s innards and messing about. It’s far from a simple one-click-and-you’re-done experience. Also I noticed it added significant lag to page loads as it filtered through each post.

With two weeks to go in this endless political cycle, is it worth it to start filtering your feed? Maybe. Then again, I don’t really think I’m going to miss any of the folks I unfriended, and I seriously doubt they’ll be missing me.

Maybe we'll all be friends again come Wednesday, November 7. But I kinda doubt it.

Got a question about social media? TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan may have the answer (and if not, he’ll make something up). Visit his snarky, occasionally NSFW blog eSarcasm or follow him on Twitter: @tynanwrites. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-to’s, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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