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Tips for Talking Politics on Social Media and Surviving

New survey: 46% of people are worn out by political posts and discussions.

Source: Pixabay

It's seems like only yesterday when we were in the middle of cyber-combat with the 2016 election. It didn't matter what side of the political fence you were on, people were attacking friends, family and strangers—just because they didn't agree with them. There were mean memes, cruel jokes, disgusting comments and malicious content scrolling down news feeds as well as flying through twitter and other social platforms.

Social media is not for the faint of heart

PEW Research Center recently shared that 46 percent of U.S. social media users are simply exhausted or "worn-out" by the number of political posts and discussions they see online. This is up 9 percent since the 2016 survey.

People who use social media sites are also more likely today than in the past to describe the political discourse on these platforms in negative terms. The majority of users, 68 percent, now describe politics online, especially with people they disagree with, as "frustrating and stressful." This has risen from 59 percent in 2016.

Bracing for 2020

With the upcoming presidential debates in full swing, it's time to prepare ourselves both mentally and digitally.

How can we take back our social platforms and control online hate and debates so we don't become targets of political combat? Can we avoid the constant stream of cyber-political warriors screaming down our feeds?

The first thing we all have to realize is what we post online can translate very differently to people offline. If you have decided you're going to share your views, remember to be clear about them. People can't read your mind from behind the screen.

We're all allowed to have opinions, or even have a candidate we favor - however when your digital campaign turns hostile, is when you probably need to check-in with yourself. The fact is, no one will be listening anymore when rage has taken over your keypad.

3 Tips for talking politics on social media:

1. It's inevitable. You know the people that have strong voices (opinions) on your social platforms. Take steps early to unfollow or mute them. If you don't have close relationships with them, de-friending them is always an option. Remember, they don't get notified that you made these changes. So de-stress yourself and remove these discussions and disturbing posts before they hit your feeds.

Unfollow and mute (blocking and unfriending) can be your friendly tools throughout the election season. Use them generously. I did in 2016 and even after the election. It's amazing how much better you will feel when you tune-out unnecessary hate.

2. Budget your time online. According to research, adults can spend up to 11 hours a day interacting with media. This includes getting their news. Social media sites (including websites) have surpassed print newspapers as a news source for Americans. Can you decipher fake news? Be careful what you spend your time on and don't spread cyber-gossip or information that is potentially false. That is just as bad as hate.

By limiting the time you spend on social media, you will find the places that keep you well-informed on the topics that most interest you. You may eventually want to engage in conversations if you feel the thread has proven to be civil without hostility. Believe it or not, there are still people out there that can agree to disagree and have really great discussions and healthy debates.

3. Breathe. We can't control how people behave online, but we can control how we respond to them. Your online behavior is a reflection of your offline character, so before you let your fingers go flying to respond to a critic's comment, pause. Is it really worth it?

Sometimes the best way to discuss politics is offline with friends and family that understand you, not that they always agree with you, however they can give you a worthwhile debate without it going viral for the delight of potential trolls.

There are many people that are able to navigate political conversations on social media, it's truly an art. However for the rest of us, you need to be prepared for the backlash of haters. We're never going to please everyone and we don't have to.

We also need to be self-aware of what we put into the cyber-world. Are you about to risk your job? Maybe a potential scholarship? Is a strong opinion or proving a point really worth this type of loss?

Don't allow politics to get the better of your online reputation. It's your future.

Video courtesy of Cyberwise.


PEW Research Fact Tank - U.S. social media users say they are ‘worn out’ by political posts and discussions

PEW Research Fact Tank - Social media outpaces print newspapers in the U.S. as a news source