Facebook is useless when it comes go changing people’s opinions. I’m sure many people will disagree with me but I firmly believe that’s the case. My belief comes from personal observation and science.
My personal observation is this – I’ve yet to see people go back and forth on Facebook about any issue where one person finally concedes and says, “Wow, you’ve brought up some interesting points I’ve never considered before. That’s helped change my thinking on this issue.” Have you ever seen someone post anything remotely related to that? I bet not.
Why do I believe science backs up my belief that Facebook isn’t a vehicle to change people’s minds on important issues? Because of Robert Cialdini’s principle of consistency. This principle of influence tells us people feel internal and external pressure to be consistent in what they say and do. Some factors that strengthen consistency’s pull include someone taking a public, active stand and as long as it’s voluntary and requires some effort people will be more firmly entrenched in their original position.
We all hold beliefs about politics, religion, sex (the big three we’re supposed to avoid discussing in public), as well as many other issues. When we keep those to ourselves we might ponder other people’s views and possibly consider them but once we make our thoughts public we feel the pull of consistency to defend our original position.
Now consider taking an active stand. You begin posting on Facebook. The mere act of taking more and more action gets you to put more and more reasons in front of the world as to why you believe what you believe. You’re convincing yourself with each post that you’re right and the other person is wrong.
Of course, it’s assumed you’re doing this of your own free will – voluntarily. That’s important because we own our views much more than we do the views we might ascribe to primarily because of our parents, peers or the company we work for. So this is one more reason people dig their heels in even further.
And now we come to effort. The more effort you put into something the more you value it and take ownership. Dan Ariely calls this “The IKEA Effect,” because people love their IKEA furniture primarily due to the effort they put into building it. As you start researching to defend your position, check out someone else’s Facebook page or do anything to prepare for the back and forth exchange on Facebook, you are firmly entrenching your beliefs even more because of the effort you’ve expended.
So, having made your views public, actively and voluntarily, while engaging others with time and effort, almost makes it certain you won’t change your opinion. And you know what, the same holds true for the other person. Maybe you should ask yourself if it’s worth it – the time, effort and angst – to debate over Facebook. Personally I think it’s a waste of time because I know no good will come of it.
If you’re open to the reality that maybe, just maybe you don’t have all the facts and aren’t 100% correct all the time then I believe you’d get much more accomplished by sitting face-to-face over coffee or a beer so you can have a discussion. When you do so, each person can share their views and ask questions.
I’ll conclude with this – it used to be considered a good thing to be open minded and willing to change if need be. However, that seems to have gone out the window these days, especially in politics because the external pressure to remain consistent is so strong. If you’re a politician who changes on a position you’ll be crucified as a flip-flopper, waffler or wishy-washy. As everyday citizens get more firmly entrenched in the ideology of their party and take to social media to air their opinions it will only get tougher to persuade people to change. So, if you want to be a master persuader, you’d better rethink your approach if you want to impact someone else for your cause. My simple suggestion is to take it offline.