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How we can keep our relationships during elections: don’t talk politics on social media


Indonesia’s 2019 presidential election is just around the corner. From last year’s Jakarta gubernatorial election, we’ve learned that the popular pastime of expressing political stances on social media may bring unwanted social consequences.

My friend unfriended his aunt on Facebook because he was extremely annoyed by her posts and comments attacking his political views. Once warm and intimate, their relationship became awkward online.

What should we do?

Social media has created an unimaginable shift in our daily lives. It allows us to broadcast our personal interests in all their myriad forms, including politics to a wide number of people.

Before the advent of the internet and rise of social media, platforms for broadcasting political opinions were limited to mainstream media and government propaganda. But now, everyone, from politicians to lay people, with access to social media, have a platform to share their views.

With the local and presidential elections coming up, we may see rampant political debates on social media. We need to come up with strategies so our engagement in social media does not jeopardise our existing relationships.

Although I am completely aware that getting rid of all access to the new media is nearly impossible, I believe there are ways we can be less annoying (or annoyed by) what we see Facebook.

There are strategies to employ stricter self-control including:

Avoiding pointless debate

Debates in Facebook comments can easily turn into quarrels that can break social ties.

Social psychologists have long believed that the strongest political stance is the most resistant to persuasion. This means the more we challenge our annoying Facebook friends, the more immune they become to our arguments.

We would actually have better luck if we ignored them. De-radicalization of extreme ideological/political views comes from within, not without.

Triple check before posting on social media

Fake news and hoaxes always contain emotional elements and that’s why they can spread faster than the real news. Fake news often arouses our emotions and leads to impulsive behaviour.

Before deciding what to share, it is worth considering what’s the worst that can happen as a result.

Ask yourselves before posting: will I contribute to something positive? Or will the post end up in another pointless quarrel? If the answers to these questions are no and yes respectively, then we should hold off pressing the “post” button.

Do occasional social media diet

We have no control over other people’s lives, so it is a good idea not to bother ourselves worrying about what others should be doing.

When the annoyance starts to be unbearable, going on a social media diet is more helpful than unfriending Facebook friends we find annoying.

Social media diet.

Unfriending Facebook friends with different views potentially traps us in a political bubble and makes us less tolerant to alternative views.

Political views versus personalities

I am amazed by the way we sometimes fail to differentiate someone’s political stance from their actual personal qualities.

The friend who writes that annoying political status may be a warm-hearted and kind person in real life.

On social media we don’t see others in totality; it forces us to see our political opponents as being less human. This again proves social media is a dangerous place for political conversation, especially when the dialogue happens between two people representing two opposite parties.

Although a study confirmed that social media is useful for encouraging deliberative process of democracy, if we want to discuss politics, I highly recommend doing it in a healthy, face-to-face conversation.

Friends with annoying political comments on social media can be friendly figures in real life.

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