I DID A THING: My Terrible Relatives Are Ruining Facebook With Their Garbage Opinions. Can I Pop Off?

I Did A Thing is our weekly advice column where the Her Campus editorial team helps you out when you ruin your own life (hey, we've been there). Email [email protected] for any and everything you need help with. We’ll answer you (anonymously!) on hercampus.com so we can all learn, together. We’ve got your back.

@fbfamily: I have this aunt who is terrible and a Tr*mp supporter and wants everyone to know it. She's posting stuff I find politically and morally reprehensible on Facebook at every turn and even gets into fights with my friends (and me) on posts that don't concern her at all. My mom doesn't want me saying mean things to her online and said unfriending her wouldn't look good either. Wtf can I do?

@helpmehc: In these, the hyper-polarizing end-of-days times, it feels a bit like a horror movie. You're looking around at people you know and love and realizing that they might be Deep State truthers or unflinchingly indifferent to the plight of migrant children in cages. It feels very much like you're looking over your shoulder, unsure of whether the people you've always trusted can still be trusted the same way. It's also hard to balance family politics with this world where Neo Nazis take to the streets with their goddamn tiki torches. Shit is complicated

One thing not so complicated? Fighting on Facebook. When, in the history of that god-forsaken online cesspit of high school randos, has a Facebook argument ever been effective? Like really and truly when? (Like, never.) So first things first: Recognize that the platform doesn't lend itself to nuance, to empathetic discourse, to anything that doesn't devolve into mean-spirited playground spats with a dose of tribalism. Don't expect miracles and don't @ me Zuckerberg.

Now, for the IRL implications. The reality is, you can't just separate politics from your personal relationships. Personally, I've always deeply side-eyed folks who say that you can do that (and it's typically a tell-tale sign that a person hasn't had their whole existence/life politicized.) A person's politics, their values, all those systems about what they can stand and what they can't stand about this crazy messed up world we live in speak volumes about who they are as a person and you can't be expected to ignore it. The decision about what kind of relationship you can stand to have with that aunt is yours alone to make. Your mom can have feelings about it and you can choose whether those feelings play into your decision, but you can't force yourself to nod your head and smile if you don't have it in you. If you gotta block or unfriend, un-fucking-friend.

Now, outside that personal relationship situation, you are a grown-ass human who gets to set your own physical and digital boundaries. If you want to remain diplomatic for your mom's sake, you can totally take the route of sending a short message to your aunt saying something along the lines of "I respect your right to say what you want and believe what you want, but I ask that you respect my friends and other loved ones and not try to start arguments on my posts with people I care about when they don't concern you." Those are reasonable, respectful boundaries to set and to abide by and it shouldn't turn into a family World War III to ask that. People — even family — who continually overstep reasonable boundaries are garbage anyway. Tell 'em not to come unless you send for them. 

If you don't think that kind of firm-but-civil tactic will work (because tbh some people straight-up don't want to work that way and just want a fight) you can also use privacy settings to your advantage and hide the majority of your posts from this aunt. It's not a perfect system, but it can save you a lot of grief. Let her have a cat picture or something else, but keep your friends and folks willing to engage in civil discourse away from her. You don't want to restrict your social media to a place where you're only preaching to a choir of yes-men (there's no real work to be done there) but you also can judge when a person isn't open to a real, frank and good-faith conversation about differences.

For folks with privilege, you absolutely have a responsibility to try and talk to folks who are resistant to understanding the experiences and struggles of folks with less privilege. You can always try to deescalate and approach things from a thoughtful, empathetic angle and see what comes of it — I need to believe that underneath some garbage policy opinions and media brainwashing there is a part of all humans that can still connect with other people who are different than them. But, if someone proves over and over again to be on the attack and have little interest in conversation beyond hurting you and the people you care about, you don't owe them anything — not attention, not time, not education.

It's a balancing act, but you know in your heart when you can maybe do The Work and when you're just punching against a wall. You can't change the world or change minds while volleying fb barbs at someone who is destroying your mental health or hurting the people you love. No one expects that from you. 

And, of course, once the unfriending/privacy setting changes are made, you can always make a beautifully petty spite donation to a non-profit of your choice in their honor. (You don't always gotta go high.)

Check out more advice from @helpmehc. We've got your back.