The United States of social media

Wendy Johnson

Unless you’re Kimmy Schmidt’s sister-wife and you somehow didn’t get out of the bunker, you’re aware there is a Presidential election in November.

You’re likely also aware of your Facebook friends’ political stances and your Twitter acquaintances’ thoughts about Donald, Hillary, or Bernie.

Not too long ago, social media wasn’t such a powerful force. Sure, anyone that was anyone had a MySpace account (remember the difficulty of choosing your “Top 8”?), but social media wasn’t the place where people went to get, share, or find information.

Fast forward to 2016 and social media has infiltrated nearly every part of our lives, especially politics. It’s a place where news stations, candidates, and their pundits can post real-time information, but it can also breed hatred and bitterness and cause friends to become enemies.

So that begs the question: how do we keep the peace — or at the very least, our sanity — this political season? Here are a few of my suggestions.

Embrace it

No, I’m not suggesting you flip-flop your political stance, but it would do all of us some good to embrace what others are saying and to, if nothing else, use it to challenge and perhaps strengthen our own opinions. When it comes to politics, most people are very opinionated and likely won’t change their stance — and that’s okay. But rather than getting angry and jumping into a debate, read their post and try to understand their point of view. If nothing else, it may help to strengthen your opinions and assist you if you choose to let it.

Debate it

If you’re more of a dominant personality, you enjoy engaging in a healthy debate with your political dissenters. Before you do this, make sure you’re well informed. Read the article (and perhaps two or three others) and you’ll be equipped to intelligently state your opinion. My personal rule of thumb: do not comment on anything unless you read the article. News and other outlets are masters at click-bait and what’s in the headline isn’t necessarily what’s in the body of the article. Read it before you comment or dive into a debate.

Research it

Don’t rely on social media as your only source of information. Did you know that not everything you read online is 100% factual? I know, right?! Take time to do some research independent of social media. Heck, you might even pick up a newspaper or watch the 10 o’clock news. Regardless of where you get your information, be aware that things can and do get manipulated online and often times, things aren’t always as they seem. Take the time to do the research and form your own opinions.

Think before you share it

Please, please, please for the love of all things holy, make sure the information is accurate before you share/repost/retweet. There are fewer things worse than seeing your beloved uncle post a satirical article from The Onion with a corresponding status update asserting it as fact.

Check and check again that the information you’re about to share is timely and accurate. It will keep you from looking ignorant, and will help keep the Internet free of misleading information.

Respect it

This is probably the most difficult one of them all, simply because others aren’t necessarily respectful in return. When I’m online and posting an opposing opinion, I always try to be respectful of the other person and their point of view. It doesn’t mean that I’ll always be respected or understood, but if I’m respectful then I feel like I’ve won… even if it is a teensy tiny battle.

Laugh about it

If all else fails, laugh about it. We’re all in this together.