Every client I’ve had the last few months has at one point or another brought up both the election and social media and the impact of one on the other. Party doesn’t matter, either. People were stressed about Clinton, Trump, and both of their policies or proposals. A few have lost friends over their remarks or the remarks of others. The other day while scrolling through news articles I found one detailing a divorce filed when a couple revealed their voting choices to one another.
It seems like more people than ever before are talking politics, which is a positive. An engaged citizenry is a fantastic thing! A stressed-beyond-belief-can’t-find-any-peace-because-everyone-is-so-opinionated-citizenry is a different deal. That one places stress on you and others. It makes us all cranky. Another great benefit to the present situation is that there has never been a better time to talk about healthy boundaries & self-care than in the face of the bombardment of opinions and social media shares (or overshares) and the way they seem to be affecting a great many of us.
Below are some solutions to issues I’ve heard in the last few months when it comes to social media debates and politicking online.
- Before You Comment/Respond
Before you make a comment on a post online ask yourself:
Is it helpful?
Is it true/factual?
Is it being made on a post that asked for opinions or input from others?
What is your purpose in making the comment?
Are your words respectful?
Remember, we almost always expect others to judge us by our intentions and rarely afford them that courtesy, so think before you type. If it isn’t clear in type that you’re being helpful, truthful, supportive, respectful, even if dissenting with your words, you may be commenting for the wrong reason (like to be right or to embarrass or scold someone – the very behaviors a lot of people have taken issue with this election cycle).
- Consider the Unfollow
So many people have been deleted, blocked, and had online (and “real”) relationships ruined due to political stances this year. I wish there were research data on the actual number! I bet it would be eye opening for us.
Before you delete or unfriend Uncle Bob with the extreme political views you dislike, opt for the unfollow option on Facebook. This leaves your friendship intact and cuts down on the awkward conversation about why he’s not on your friends list anymore at the next family gathering, yet you don’t have to see everything he posts. Win!
- Consider the Side Block
If a friend is forever sharing posts from a group or person you don’t like or a group or person that will consistently post things you don’t care for, block that group as opposed to your BFF from first grade. This will prevent that group/page’s content from showing up in your newsfeed and causing you a buzz kill.
- Set Your Boundaries
If you share something or comment on a share that starts a war of the fastest typing fingers you could end up eating away at precious free time better spent coloring, napping, doing yoga, gardening, learning Italian, eating, planning your next vacation, pinning cool stuff on pinterest, reading a mind-blowing book, or watching an awesome documentary. You won’t get those minutes of your life back.
A few days ago someone commented on a post I shared (of a cat posed like the statue of liberty, because I thought it was funny) that had nothing to do at all with anything political, asking me what I thought of the travel ban. He almost got me. Almost. I began typing out a wonderful answer sure to be emblazoned on a plaque somewhere and then deleted it and instead said, “I started to tell you what I think about this but then I remembered life is finite.”
You don’t have to engage with every little thing someone asks or opines. You don’t owe anyone an explanation about anything. If it’s not going to get you anywhere or do any good, you’re in charge. You can let it go.
Same goes if people begin arguing on a post you make or share. Uncle Bob and Friend Janet are going at it arguing on your page. You don’t have to defend either one, make excuses for either of them, or take any other action. A lot of times we feel responsible for the behavior of people we love in the “real world” and that extends to online behaviors too. Fact is, though, that you don’t control anything anyone else does. You’re under no obligation to referee the behavior of others in any forum (unless you’re a parent in which case…that’s another blog).
If you’re not cool with what people are saying, say so. You don’t have to engage in a wordy fight to the finish with someone on something you say or do online unless you just want to. You can just say, “Hey, clean up the language on my page/I don’t tolerate name calling/Keep your opinions off my posts,” or whatever. People may not abide by that, but at least you’re being clear with what’s ok and what isn’t – then see numbers 2 & 3 about this.
- Who You Vote for is Private
You absolutely don’t have to tell anyone who you vote for or didn’t vote for. That’s why there are curtains around voting booths and only one voter at a time allowed in. It’s private. It’s protected. You don’t have to share and if you do share, you don’t have to justify it. See number 4.
- Take a Break
When or if social media and the news begin to eat up most of your time, become the sole focus of all your attention, or have your dates or spouse staring just over your shoulder during all conversations (because they’re all political ones), it could be time to take a break. You won’t be able to convince anyone of anything or learn or think clearly if your brain is overloaded and super stressed. Limit your time on social media until you’re feeling less stressy.
- Get Stuff Done
Your opinion can change the world. Your voice can change minds and hearts. Your vote does matter. It is important to talk about issues that are important to you, to our nation, and to advocate for others. I would never suggest that someone completely abandon interest or participation in the running of the nation they live in!
You should absolutely contact your representatives at every level to voice your opinions on the things that matter. You should keep track of which ones respond thoughtfully and which ones ignore the voices of their constituents. You should share your concerns about legislation and other matters with those who you trust in order to spark genuine and meaningful discussion. You should register yourself with your local party (whatever it may be) and participate, volunteer, work an election cycle for your local government, and get involved any other way you can. None of that involves the high stress levels being reported by people engaging strictly in social media politics, and even if it is time consuming – it is likely to help get things done.
It is important that you take care of yourself and if the stress of online politicking has you feeling consumed – you may need to check in with yourself about how you’re handling things and ask yourself if you’re handling it or if it’s handling you.