By Elizabeth Hovde
Like most people who use social media, I started seeing a lot of Facebook posts about politics early this year. At times, they even outweighed posts about cute kids and cats. I knew I would need to take drastic measures.
Not only was I becoming tempted to respond to these posts, I found myself wanting to share news items or opinions I found insightful. This was trouble. I’m usually a political minority among my friends — and in the Northwest. I’ve written an opinion column for a newspaper for 20 years. I usually talk about those columns with zero of my closest friends. That’s best for all of us, and I have readers who indulge me with political discussion.
To continue to preserve my friendships and keep from becoming what I’ve always tried to avoid — the friend or family member you don’t want to bring up politics around — I knew what needed to be done. I joined an online group of political junkies who talk politics all the time with reckless abandon.
No cute kid pictures or links to pigs walking cats. (Really. See for yourself. I saw this posted at least five times:)
Only pigs walking Trump would have had more staying power in my newsfeed that week.)
Most people in this politically interested circle weren’t friends when they arrived. They might have known one or two other contributors in a past or current life somehow, but they were not well connected, live in different parts of the country or world and wear different political stripes. Best of all, their political discussion was about more than just Hillary, Trump and Bernie. Ahhhh.
At first, I only watched the banter and barbs. I liked what I saw. Most of these people were my people!
I thought they only existed in editorial board meetings or in pre-2010 legislatures. They were the type of people you could debate with for hours and then meet for a beer, without a side of grudge or drama. They weren’t afraid or sorry to say what they thought. They didn’t shut up when someone told them they should. They took insults, shrugged and came back for more. There isn’t a lot of dwelling, and posts in this group really only have a daily, or hourly, shelf-life. There is always a new issue or candidate to haggle over within the hour.
I’m pleased with the timing of this group in my life. With less column space available to me and newspapers “changing,” I’m having to decide again what to be when I grow up.
It’s much harder this time around than when I was 20. I’m now a 40-something single mom who needs a reliable, living-wage job to keep my kids in their beds at night. (I used to have one of those. That was cool.) And column writing has spoiled me. I love researching and writing about politics and social issues. I’m passionate about furthering discussion and building bridges with others. I’m addicted to learning new things and often learn most from my political opposition.
I met this Facebook group of political nerds (I call them that with admiration) at a good time. They’ve helped show me there can be interesting political debate and discussion for me when my column writing has to end.
The desire to keep doing something I love for work has led me to believe I should be a florist, a recreational therapist or a chef — three professions for which I have absolutely no qualifications. My resume is full of entries about my experience in an industry that is changing in ways that make it unrecognizable to many writers. I’m writing a book and thinking about blogs, but they don’t promise an income I can work with.
Trying to find the next right fit, I have written press releases, grants and website copy. I have taken on emergency substitute teaching in local, public schools. I’ve brainstormed a house-cleaning business I could start when my kids go back to school so I can continue to accommodate the hours in which they need an adult. If I did that, I could at least listen to OPB, play loud music and think of good points to make in my all-political, all-the-time Facebook group when I get home.
I can only offer so many emoticon reactions to pigs walking cats, after all.
Photograph: Katie Frates, The Daily Caller
Elizabeth Hovde writes for The Oregonian and takes other random contract gigs. She’s a mom of two boys. Currently, one likes her and one doesn’t. She believes nachos should be eaten at least weekly.
Editor’s note: I got to know Elizabeth when I edited her columns as the Sunday Opinion Editor at The Oregonian. Though our politics differ, that doesn’t lessen the friendship that has grown from our professional relationship. Few people I know are as genuine as her.
Tomorrow: Tim Akimoff, Night on the Kahawai