Let’s Not Talk Politics: Why the 2016 Election Is Dividing Family and Friends

Posted on: October 13th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(NEW YORK) — This election cycle has been filled with attacks and constant controversy not only between the candidates but also among family and friends, especially on social media.

This year through Oct. 1, “109 million people on Facebook in the U.S. generated 5.3 billion likes, posts, comments and shares related to the election,” a Facebook spokesman told ABC News.

Members of one family spoke to ABC News about the tension that developed among them as a result of the current political climate and their activity on social media.

Tiana, a 25-year-old Democrat who lives in Brooklyn, New York, found it increasingly difficult to align with the values and opinions of her Republican parents, Stuart and Tamaira, who live in Texas. Stuart admitted that part of his problem has been his lack of filter, and Tiana said that sparked “huge rants.”

“I tend to get really upset and really, I think, sad more than anything. I really at this point couldn’t disagree any more with my parents,” said Tiana.

The tumultuousness intensified when both sides refused to tone down their political positions on social media.

“I’ve made her cry before by saying different things,” Stuart said.

Comments such as “You disgust me” and “I expected better” frequented the family’s feeds and led to more extreme measures online.

Tiana said she warned her father several times and eventually, as a result of his posts, blocked him, which she said really upset and angered him.

“Several times she’s blocked me, and after we patch things up, [I] promise not to post on her site again,” said Stuart. “We do a lot of finger pointing because, I always say, she posts on mine first, and once you post on mine, you’re fair game.”

Emily Miethner, the CEO and founder of FindSpark, an online community program that provides tools and resources to connect employers and young professionals, said, “It’s not surprising that families and friends are getting into feuds on social media.”

“A lot of conversations that used to happen, say, around the dinner table are now being moved online,” Miethner said. “People feel more comfortable talking online.”

Tiana, Stuart and Tamaira chose to work through their differences and no longer discuss politics with one another.

“When push comes to shove, we’re still family,” said Tamaira.

Psychologist Elizabeth Lombardo said watching the personal attacks made by candidates and their supporters in this election may make people feel stressed and powerless.

“People are posting things on social media to try to feel better about themselves, to try to address their stress and to get more control,” she said today on “GMA.”

Lombardo said the election discourse on social media is made worse by the platform’s anonymity.

“You say different things when you’re typing, when you’re not looking at someone face to face, than you ever would if you were looking at them,” she said.

Lombardo’s tips for people on the receiving end of political attacks on social media include asking themselves what their own motivation is — whether you are commenting to try to put someone else down or just to share your passion — and then ideally not engaging in the conversation. She also recommended taking advantage of features like mute on Twitter and block on Facebook so offensive comments will not appear in your feed.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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