David Heinemeier Hansson

October 27, 2022

Make politics private again

Before social media, I couldn't tell you what narrow political box to put most of my friends or coworkers. I might have had a hunch as to whether someone leaned left or right, but it was usually just that, a hunch, and more importantly, virtually never relevant to our relationship.

That doesn't mean we couldn't occasionally have discussions about political topics. Though I never recall any of those conversations ever turning sour in a way where we couldn't laugh or smile about it afterwards.

Today, it seems like you more often than not have to make an effort to avoid exposure to the specific political leanings, positions, and affiliations of friends, coworkers, and even acquaintances. Politics is everywhere, all the time.

There's a reason we vote in private. It's not just to prevent overt intimidation in the booth, but also to avoid fracturing otherwise happy relationships with the imposition. We've lost that wisdom in the social media age. Every political like, retweet, forwarded article, and indignant post broadcasts and entrenches exactly where we stand to ourselves and others.

This way of living is not only narrowing our perception of others, and hardening our stances on the issues, it's poisoning our ability to have politically diverse friendships and relationships. Which in turn becomes a feedback loop that fosters further narrowing, further hardening, and further poisoning. It's insidious. 

The virtue of privacy in the political sphere is a societal good as well as personal one. A polity where everyone, everywhere constantly flaunt their partisan leanings is one that'll eventually careen off a cliff. 

We're better served by outsourcing our political preferences in private to a small minority of engaged agents acting on our behalf. Whether that be professional politicians in functioning democracies or particular advocates on issues more broadly.

Speech is silver, silence is golden.

About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.