Connected Avoiding politics on social media


Part two of two:

Last week, I wrote about the recent increase in the number of political posts on social media, and the level of stress those posts create for many people.

Still, research shows social media users feel a need to stay connected, even in the face of added stress.

I have my own strategies for avoiding political posts. One is to limit the amount of time I spend reading news feeds.

The unfortunate side effect to this strategy is, of course, missing out on more important updates from friends and family. With all due respect to those of you deeply entrenched in the upcoming election, and hell-bent on sharing every opinion about a certain candidate, I’d rather read about my friends and the amazing lives they lead.

Turns out I’m not alone. Many of my friends are trying to avoid political posts in an effort to focus more on the positive side of social media, and they have some good techniques for doing so:

Unfollow vs. Unfriend: “At first I rolled my eyes and scrolled by,” my friend Jill noted about reading political posts. “Next, I started posting links to fact checking sources debunking their ‘facts.’ After a three-day headache, I realized I was clenching my jaw and started unfollowing folks. Family and friends. Not unfriending, but I no longer see their posts on my feed.”

My friend Cynthia agrees. “I have unfollowed everyone who posts anything negative. I do, however, love the funny ones.”

No Space To Debate: One reason we avoid talking about politics on social media is the amount of space we have to debate. Shane Tilton, an assistant professor at Ohio Northern University, said, “I try to avoid political engagement on social media as those interactions don’t change the position of either party. The format of social media is traditionally too limiting to properly create dialog for meaningful change.”

Keep It Light: When it comes to changing minds, my friend Trevor agrees with Shane.

“I definitely have my stance and feel that no one will change my mind nor will I change anyone else’s,” Trevor said. “When I feel compelled to write [a reply] I turn to a joke about some pointless, ridiculous argument to try to keep it light. Some feel my posts are trite, but I’ve had several comments about my silly posts. Friends will say [my posts] were the only non-political post they saw in their feeds and it was refreshing.”

Write It And Delete It: “I write what I want to say in the comment field and then rather than post it I delete it,” Lori said. “This way I get my thoughts out without engaging in political banter.”

“I do this, too,” Kelly replied. “But usually it’s because I write it all out and then think, ‘Nope. Not worth it.’”

Adam Earnheardt is chairman of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Read his blog at adamearn.com and follow him on Twitter at @adamearn.

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