Dear Wayne and Wanda,
My boyfriend has generally gotten along good with all my friends but lately his behavior on social media is creating issues.
When we started dating a few years ago, we didn’t talk about politics much. “Jeff” seemed to generally agree with me on basic stuff. Well, after the last presidential election, I think anyone would agree that the way we talk about politics has changed. It’s just everywhere these days!
As that election progressed and concluded, Jeff has gotten more vocal about his ... conservatism zeal? Basically he thinks Trump hung the moon and he staunchly and rather rudely defends the president and his policies to anyone who thinks otherwise, resorting to name calling, jabs, and other remarks that just make him sound like a jerk.
I’ve told Jeff that I can tolerate the fact that our ideologies differ but asked him to please stay off my friends’ social media and not interrogate and troll them in such an aggressive way. They’ve told me it’s irritating. He says I’m overreacting - that my friends love him and don’t mind and it’s “just how people talk now.” I think it makes him look like a crazy brute but I don’t want to hurt his feelings by confessing my friends don’t enjoy it. Help?
I’m going to assume that if Jeff is talking politics on your friends’ social media pages, than your friends are essentially laying the foundation by posting about politics on their social media pages in the first place. And I’ll assume they’re also “friends” with Jeff, giving him full access and essentially an invitation to join in the conversation.
For someone like Jeff, who thrives on adversarial conversation, he probably genuinely believes he’s making the topics more fun and lively by injecting refreshingly different viewpoints in a provocative way. He’s your boyfriend, so give him the benefit of the doubt that he’s not trying to irritate your friends — and in fact is in denial that’s even occurring.
You could tell your boyfriend about your friends’ feelings — but doing so risks creating a rift in your relationship as you’ll appear to be taking their side. Perhaps a better approach would be to encourage your friends to be honest with him about how they’re feeling.
The thing about social media is we create echo chambers — spaces where when we call out our feelings, we’re generally surrounded by like-minded buddies who repeat and support our sentiments. It’s jarring when someone is repeatedly opposing, even more so when it’s perceived as hostile, and even more so when said heckler is intimately connected to a good girlfriend. But this isn’t your issue to manage.
But Wanda, it does become her issue when the BF is hitting below the belt, off the topic, and calling people — her friends and family! — names. Soon, they won’t want anything to do with her either, out of fear she’ll bring her Plus 1 pundit along IRL.
This guy isn’t looking for healthy dialogue or enlightening conversation. He’s putting the “bully” in bully pulpit, aiming to instigate rather than debate. And there aren’t enough thumbs down or smirking face emojis on the internet to slow his one-man-rally roll.
There is a way to keep the peace, keep your friends, and keep your boyfriend out on the front lines defending democracy and fighting for our First Amendment rights ... but you still have to talk to him about his behavior.
There are literally millions of no-hold-barred, bare-knuckle, mud-slinging political comments sections on social media that have no absolutely no affiliation with you or anyone you know. Send him there. Aggressive arguing with people who are just as furiously myopic and actually swing back sounds just his speed. And don’t offer your shoulder to cry on after some meanie calls him a bad name.