Offensive Posts on Facebook — Should You Engage, Unfollow, Or Block Entirely?

There's nothing like national cases of racial profiling and police brutality to reveal the racist ideology of that one kid you knew from middle school who you’re still Facebook friends with for some reason. If you’re seeing a lot of offensive posts on your feed and you're not sure what to do with them, blog New City Tech has a helpful flowchart to try to help you navigate this sticky situation. That is, if you haven't already decided to adopt my block/unfollow/unfriend method.

The flowchart ends up offering you a few suggestions on how to react to an offensive post, but it suggests that before you do anything, the very first thing you should do is pause and “take your time.” Why? Because it’s Internet and everything is forever on the Internet, so said post will most likely be here when you get back to it. Also probably because it helps to calm down a bit and think things through. The next few steps take you through a series of questions based on your relationship with this person. Honestly, if this is an insignificant person you don't even know in real life, I recommend that you skip right down the right side of this flowchart down to "get them off your feed," which is the flowchart way of saying UNFRIEND!

It turns out that only 30 percent of people surveyed said they'd considered unfriending someone over an offensive Facebook post. With those numbers, I take it that most people would prefer to explore the other two end options: “talk to your mutual friend, you can block the posts,” and “OK, you may not change minds, but you can shift the tone."

I understand unfollowing somebody's posts, but I still have reservations on engaging with an offensive post. Although the flowchart offers tips on how to join the conversation effectively, my past experiences make me wary. I've found that conversations about controversial topics can end up going in circles, and the Internet hasn't proveN to be the best platform for fixing that. Even if you “find something — anything — you can agree with in what they’re saying” and include “facts, stats or counter-examples” to the conversation, people have a habit of zeroing in on one fact and missing the larger point or just completely derailing the entire conversation with something irrelevant. Don't believe me? Just take a look at the comments on Cera Byer's post asking her white male friends to examine their privilege.

One thing the flowchart doesn’t mention is when to end the conversation. I’ve yet to see any Facebook arguments that ended on a more positive note than “agree to disagree.” But I guess that’s the point of the flowchart. You can't make people not racist with a Facebook comment, but you can make sure there's at least one voice of reason calling out an offensive post.

Images: Getty / New Tech City/Piktochart