Politics on social media is driving people apart

64% say that seeing different views on their feed makes them feel like they have less in common

Financial trends and news by Steven Loeb
October 25, 2016
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/47d8

Social media may be changing the way that campaigns are run, for better or worse, but one thing it's not doing is changing the way regular people think. In fact, a good number would rather not have to encounter politics on social media at all.

new study out from Pew Research Center found that, out of 4,579 respondents, only 20 percent said they liked seeing a lot of political posts on their feed. While 41 percent said it doesn't affect them, more than a third, 37 percent, identified as being "worn out by how many political posts and discussions they see." Frankly, I'm surprised that number isn't double.

The feeling worn out part becomes especially true when someone on their feed has an opposing viewpoint, which 59 percent said are "stressful and frustrating," while only 35 percent said that they find encountering ideas different than their own "interesting and informative."

An even larger percentage say that if they encounter someone with different views, that it makes them feel like they have less in common, rather than more in common, 64 percent to 29 percent. 

There's a lot of talk about this being a divided country, and this type of response shows that may be truer than I thought.

Perhaps it's just the venue, though. Maybe social media is just a bad place to hash out our differences and come to an understanding. I certainly have found that people are more willing to listen, and don't get as hyperbolic, when talking in person. People really can rile themselves up when they have more time to craft a response. 

The Pew respondents seem to agree with that, with more than half of them saying that political conversations on social media are less respectful and "likely to come to a resolution" than other venues. Meanwhile, they also see them as less politically correct and less informative. Less respectful and less informative makes for a bad combo. 

It's not like political posts can be avoided just by going onto Facebook instead of Twitter, or vice versa. Those surveyed were almost identical in how much of their feed was made up of political posts, with around 65 percent saying it was either "a lot" or "some." If you're on social media, the political posts are going to be there. 

So, what do most users do? It comes down to two things: either they try to ignore those posts, with a whopping 83 percent doing this, and only 15 percent responding. Or they block them, which I find to be troubling solution, unless it's absolutely necessary (as in, it's becoming abusive).

Of those surveyed, 39 percent said they had changed settings, blocked or unfriended someone because of political postings. Of that group, 60 percent said it was because of something offensive, 43 because it was too much content (this is one I have had to do myself) and 38 percent because of abuse.

Those are all legitimate reasons to block someone, but a disheartening 39 percent said that they have blocked or defriended someone because of something they disagreed with. That's over a third of those people who just couldn't stand seeing a viewpoint that didn't line up with their thinking.

Honestly, I wish that number were closed to zero percent. I have little patience for those who reject others simply for having different views. That's not how anything gets solved. 

No one is listening anyway

A study by social media marketing website Rantic in August found that only six percent of Republicans say they've ever changed their minds because of a Facebook post, and only eight percent of Democrats. 

That is despite the fact that 39 percent of Republicans, and 34 percent of Democrats, admitted to posting about their political views. Only 26 percent of Independents said they had. 

According that that survey, it's Democrats who are most likely to get rid of someone because of a political post, with 18 percent admitting they did that, compared to 12 percent of Republicans.

The takeaway from all this data: we should all stop posting about politics on social media. Nobody likes it, and it doesn't affect any change anyway. All it does it drive people apart and make us more divided as a country. Politics and social media simply don't mix.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have an anti-Trump rant I've been waiting to post on my Facebook wall.

(Image source: theodysseyonline.com)

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