SOCIAL MEDIA AND POLITICS
Is social media a good platform to discuss politics?
Are you ruining your work relationships with political posts, debates, and arguments on social media?
Start a political dialogue on social media without offending your prospective clients.
Social media enables politicians to have a direct line to potential voters. This comes at the high cost of mixing social media politics with friends, family, and even colleagues.
In recent years, people have become increasingly antisocial due to political arguments on social media platforms.
According to a Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults, 55% of adult social media users say they feel worn out by how many political posts and discussions they see on social media.
Is it a good idea to post political statements on social media platforms? It depends. Read on to find out why.
Political Bullying on Facebook
Facebook is a digital podium for political activism, but it comes with risks.
Facebook initially started as a social network to share family photos. It has since evolved into one of the most essential business tools to reach consumers and potential voters. Digital civility has been replaced with political shaming. Civil political disagreement has been replaced with political bullying on Facebook.
“According to a study by Pew Research Center, nearly 20% of social media users have blocked, unfriended or hidden someone because of their political posts online.”
When it comes to social media, Republicans and Democrats are polar opposites with family disagreements, political posts, and blocking behavior.
In a survey by PRRI, more than 25% of Americans said they rarely discuss politics with family. 24% of Democrats and 9% of Republicans said they blocked, unfriended, or stopped following someone on social media because of what they posted about politics. The poll also found that Democratic women are the most likely demographic to block friends because of political views.
Discussing politics on social media with people you disagree with
How does social media shape political polarization?
How to handle opposing political viewpoints on social media
Politics on Facebook Etiquette
Fact check, delete trolls and quit while you’re ahead.
Follow these ten tips to maintain your social media sanity during the 2020 election season this fall:
- Be mindful of your messaging. Whether you love President Donald Trump or hate him, do not put out sweeping generalizations such as “If you voted for Trump or Biden you are an idiot, and please unfriend me.” Innocuous social media comments in group threads can turn into full-blown brand activism PR nightmares. Why? Because the author didn’t take the time to review how the post was phrased. Remember, all of your edits are visible. If you are worried about your messaging, it is better to delete the original post than keep the edits of the post visible for the world to see.
- If you are going to write a politically-charged post, be prepared to defend it. If you write a strongly opinionated political post, half of your Facebook friends will attack you. If you do this, you aren’t allowed to get upset when your friends go to war with you. Instead, be prepared to defend yourself with facts—and to be sucked into a never-ending online fight that will drain your mental energy, attention, and focus for hours.
- Remember who you are connected to. Many people post knee-jerk reactions without being mindful of who their connections are on social media platforms. When you have over three-thousand Facebook connections, the likelihood is high that some of those contacts are valuable business acquaintances. Think carefully before you post, because you will most likely alienate people you may want to work with in the future. If you want to voice a political opinion to a custom audience, consider using Facebook’s audience select feature to limit the content you share with a select group of contacts. A periodic housecleaning of old social media posts is also a good idea. Not every political remark needs to live forever.
- Establish a personal social media policy. Make it clear to your Facebook friends that certain words, derogatory phrases, and misconduct will not be allowed on your page. Post a disclaimer before initiating a political dialogue so that you are in control of the rules and terms. If your friends continue to violate the guidelines, consider warning them, and then ultimately unfriending them. Remember, your Facebook page, your rules. You are responsible for setting the pace and tone of the engagement and dialogue. People will follow your lead.
- Weed out the social media trolls. Value your time and energy. Some people are going to argue with you about politics on Facebook regardless of what you write. If you are Facebook friends with Internet trolls, it may be time to unfriend them with a digital detox. You can also consider temporarily snoozing, unfollowing, or muting before unfriending. Block someone only as a last resort. Blocking those you disagree with can result in an echo chamber. It is always a good idea to keep people around you with diverse perspectives to expand your worldview. However, political bullying and Facebook shaming are vastly different. Do not tolerate verbal abuse or cyberbullying on social media over politics. If someone crosses a line, you can also report the comment to Facebook.
- Don’t continue to engage. A political post on social media is meant to start a conversation between friends with varying viewpoints and perspectives. However, this does not mean you need to defend yourself against every negative comment that comes your way. Let your community engage in the discourse for you. A common mistake people make is feeling like they need to respond to every comment even if it’s not directed toward them because the content is on their Facebook page. It is not your job to referee every comment.
- Delete derogatory comments. Set the precedent and tone for your page in a pinned disclaimer about policies for content moderation, removal of content, and deleting content. If someone leaves a racist, derogatory, or defamatory comment on your Facebook page, you have every right to delete it. Do not feel pressured to keep something up that goes against everything you believe in just for the sake of the authenticity of the conversation. Deleting a derogatory comment is deleting something you ultimately do not believe in or want to be associated with. Not sure what to write? Have an attorney draft a social media policy disclaimer for you.
- Consider why you are posting. If you are posting to win a political argument or to get the other side to see your point of view, chances are you’ll fail. Quit while you’re ahead. Political posts that are neutral often result in less unfriending and blocking. Anything that is politically slanted or attacks one side will draw out hateful rhetoric even if that wasn’t your original intention. Carefully review the wording and energy behind what you wrote. People can discern positive, well-intentioned posts from attention-seeking posts from a mile away. Are you posting to provoke a reaction? Or are you genuinely interested in trying to change the hearts and minds of voters?
- Fact check. Fake news continues to be published, distributed, and disseminated every election cycle at a rapid pace. Always fact-check the source of the link you are sharing before posting and do not trust Facebook to do this for you. We have all been guilty of posting these links only to find out the next day that the link was false. If you don’t realize it is false, your network will and that will erode trust in your brand as a business professional. Always research the media outlet and source before you post. The rise and spread of fake news is directly correlated to the decline in journalism jobs. Want to read more on this topic? Check out Kris Ruby’s op-ed on LoHud “Why cutting funding for journalists is the root cause of the fake news epidemic”
- Adjust audience settings to limit post visibility. Immigration, Health care reform, economic funding, education, electoral issues, taxes, domestic policy, crime, national security, gun reform, and foreign policy are hot touchpoint political issues in the 2020 election. Consider limiting the audience for each political post if you don’t want to get embroiled in a debate with endless social media discourse that turns into a major time suck.
How the 2020 U.S. election impacted mental health
Engaging in political debates on social media can bring increased levels of stress. There is even a new name for this called Election Stress Disorder. Plus, it can also become a major energy drain. Consider taking a break.
Don’t make the mistake of being glued to your phone for five hours after posting a political opinion on social media.
The conversation will continue with or without you. That is the purpose of these social media networks—intelligent debate. If all else fails? Resort to political disengagement on Facebook. Knowing when it’s time to pull the plug on Facebook fighting can preserve your sanity (and dopamine).
Posting About Politics
Is Social Media Driving Political Polarization? Does social media unite or divide us?
SOCIAL MEDIA POLITICAL ARGUMENT STATISTICS
What are the statistics on disagreements over politics on social media?
Pew Research Study – More Now Say It’s Stressful to Discuss Politics With People They Disagree With
- 57% said that talking about politics with people they disagree with is stressful and frustrating, up from 45% two years ago.
- 53% of Americans said talking about politics with people they disagree with is generally stressful and frustrating; fewer (45%) say such conversations are usually “interesting and informative.”
- A majority of Americans (63%) said that when discussing politics with people they disagree with they find they usually have less in common politically than they thought.
- 38% of people on social media platforms discovered through a friend’s posts that their political beliefs were different than the user thought they were.
- 18% of social media users have blocked, unfriended, or hidden someone due to the political content they post on their feeds.
- Fewer than a third of Americans (31%) said they find they have more in common with people they disagree with politically.
Pew Research Study – 46% of U.S. social media users say they are ‘worn out’ by political posts and discussions
- 46% of adult social media users said they felt “worn out” by the number of political posts and discussions they see on social media.
- 52% of white social media users said they were worn out by political posts on social media, compared with 36% of non-white users.
- Two-thirds of users (68%) said they find it “stressful and frustrating” to talk about politics on social media with people they disagree with, up from 59% in 2016.
- 67% said that discussing politics on social media with people they disagree with usually leads them to find out they have “less in common politically” than they expected.
- 40% of respondents said they don’t feel strongly about engaging in political discussions on social media, while 15 percent say they like seeing political content on their social media feeds.
Comparitech surveyed 1,010 individuals who reported having at least one social media account used per week and found the following results:
- Half of the respondents felt annoyed when people discussed politics on social media
- 64% of respondents said they were open to interacting with views that differed from their own
- Social media posts that focused on social issues had the most interaction in comments and posts about the President were the second most likely to garner interaction.
- 42% percent of respondents adjusted their settings to hide political posts and 35% hid posts from family members.
- Nearly 27 % of people adjusted their settings to hide their political posts from certain people and more than half of people hid their political posts from family members
- 7% of respondents said they unfriended or unfollowed someone on social media because of their political views
- Nearly 52% of respondents reported removing friends and 22% said they had unfriended a co-worker.
- 58% of respondents described political discussions on social media today, compared to before the 2016 election, as “less respectful”
- 1 percent of Republicans and 37.8 percent of Democrats said that they are more likely to post about politics on social media now, compared to before the 2016 election.
POLITICAL CONTENT ON SOCIAL MEDIA | FINAL TIPS:
- Many of us have been on Facebook for so long that it’s hard to remember who we are friends with (hello future boss!). Statements can’t be taken back.
- Think about how your message will be received and who will be receiving it.
- Intention, semantics, and phrasing matter, especially when it comes to divisive social justice topics and heated political debates.
- Sharing political views on social media should not result in political shaming and toxic discourse.
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*Originally posted in 2016 and updated in 2022