Navigating Election Season While Online

As anyone who has recently spent even two seconds on Facebook realizes, media coverage of the 2016 presidential election won’t slow down any time soon. In fact, it’s only going to increase in speed as November approaches. And this, inevitably, equates to every other shared post in your home feed praising one candidate while condemning the other.

It’s virtually impossible these days to log onto Twitter and avoid reading something about the election. And while it’s obviously important to stay informed, election-centric posts shared by family and friends who don’t share your political views can prove distressing to read. When their publicized political views so glaringly contradict your own, it’s difficult not to feel betrayed by, or at least frustrated with, the important people in your life.

Assumedly, though, the majority of your friendships were formed outside of Facebook, and most people’s circle of friends includes people of many different political leanings. Good, strong friendships can and will outlast differences of opinion. Here are some tips, then, for keeping your lifelong friendships intact as you continue to navigate this campaign season on social media:

  • Check the source: Obviously, it’s in the best interest of some publications to lean more to one political side than the other. Although, again, it’s important to stay informed, if you know reading something from a certain website is likely to upset you, it might be in your best interest to skip the article. You probably already know what it’s going to say, anyway. If possible, try to always stick to objective news sources.
  • Know your limits: By this point, you’ve likely realized you can only read so many articles and other people’s opinions before you feel like you’re losing your mind. When you reach this point, logging off is probably your best option. Turn off your computer or phone, and instead, distract yourself by reading a book, cooking a meal, or taking a walk outside.
  • Set restrictions: If you know your limits, but still can’t move on, set more concrete boundaries for yourself. Set a timer and immediately log off when it chimes, or establish beforehand a certain number of articles – say, five – to read, and log off when you reach that limit.
  • Meet up with friends: We often become detached from the people we see online, even if they’re lifelong friends. If possible, make the time to meet up, in person, with your friends, but make the decision beforehand to avoid talking about anything related to politics. Connecting with people in real life, instead of from only behind a screen, will likely remind you why became friends in the first place.
  • Share something positive and non-election related: The upcoming election is important and shouldn’t be ignored, but don’t be afraid to take the time to diverge from the norm and share something apolitical and positive online: news about the Olympics; cute animal videos; stories of human triumphs; movie trailers; recipes/food videos; stories of people being kind to each other, etc. Your friends will likely appreciate the break in their home feed from all of the usual political seriousness and monotony.
  • Comment carefully: The comment section is often a murky place, but, at the same time, freely engaging in important political discussions is one of the luxuries of living in a democratic society. Just be careful. Make a draft and review your comment before posting it. Check the validity of your facts. Avoid attacking the character of the person who posted the article or video. And most importantly, be kind whenever possible  – you won’t regret it.

Maria Castello is a summer intern at Pittsburgh Parent and a student at the University of Pittsburgh.