Six ways you can avoid losing friends because of social media — between now and Election Day

The Civilist with Steven Petrow
A delegate makes a victory sign.

With less than two weeks to go before we elect a new president, a third of the US Senate and the entire House of Representatives, it sure is a nasty, beat-'em-up, free-for-all on my social media feeds, especially Facebook and Twitter.

Not that my feed should be singled out. In fact, a new Pew Research Center study finds that 37 percent of social media users are “worn out by the amount of political content they encounter.” At the same time, nearly 59 percent describe their online encounters with those of differing political views as “stressful and frustrating.” Other findings in the Pew study:

40 percent of social media users strongly agree that people will post things online that they’d never say in person.

And nearly half feel that the political conversations on social media are angrier (49 percent), less respectful (53 percent), and less civil (49 percent) than in other areas of life.

"Politics in this country, for people who are paying attention, has always involved passion and heat. But the fact that Facebook and Twitter and social media generally mean that these postings are ubiquitous doesn't necessarily mean that the political tenor itself is new,” Shannon Gilreath, a professor of law at Wake Forest University told me. He added, “I think the real change brought on by social media is that people who have little information and, frankly, less wit are able to bombard us with their political opinions with the click of a mouse.”

Still, with politics-oriented memes and gifs more popular than ever, it’s nearly impossible to escape the fire and ire of our friends, families and followers. With mere days to go before Nov. 8, here are some strategies to help us keep political tantrums at bay, online:

  • Keep your political posts to facts and figures and funny (not mean) things. Know what you’re posting about and keep it civil.
  • When you comment on a friend’s post, again, keep to the facts, avoid rants, and don’t make it personal — ever.
  • If a friend’s Facebook posts are abhorrent to you, “unfollow” them until after Election Day. That way their posts and memes won’t be visible to you. Or, if they really go too far, “unfriend” or “block” them. Or “mute” them on Twitter.
  • Join a closed Facebook group dedicated to your political point of view and rant all you want with like-minded individuals. But don’t think that just because it’s closed, your posts will be private; they won’t be.
  • Spend your time on Instagram posting photos and videos of cats and dogs.
  • Take a social media break until Nov. 8 — or maybe forever.

Want more from Steven? Check out all of the episodes from his podcast.

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