We've all got them, no matter how left or right you lean. They're the Facebook friends who can't post a single status update without making it political, or who seem to share every last bit of oversimplified propaganda they come across. And in this election season, they grate like fingernails on a taxpayer-funded chalkboard -- a commonly-cited reason for un-friending someone is their political postings. Maybe you even agree with their politics, but you can't stand how inflammatory their posts are. Maybe they're polite enough, but you can't help being shocked at how opposite they are on the spectrum from you and it bothers you immensely. Either way, you need to escape this election season with a modicum of sanity left intact. So here's what to remember:
Breathe Before Responding: As the pace of communication picks up, it's easy to become trigger-happy in firing off a response to a comment that gets you riled. But once you say it, you can't take it back -- whether you can technically delete it or not. Your response (or thoughtful non-response) will be much more cogen and effective if you take a few minutes as a waiting period before letting yourself press "Post." It will let you calm down, have a wider focus, and at the very least, save you from some typos!
Use Technology to Your Advantage: Facebook has "hide" options; avail yourself of them. If you're tired of your prom date's dissertations on the injustices of the tax code, you don't have to read them. Explore your settings and use one of the many methods of tuning someone out-- without their ever knowing about it.
Look at the Big Picture: Presumably you're friends with these people, or at least "friends" with these people, for a legitimate reason. (If you never liked them in the first place, well, then that's a different article.) Try to remember those reasons and remind yourself that it's good to have friends who think differently than you do, and that they are a human being not completely defined by their politics. Of course, if their Facebook postings make it seem like they actually are human beings who define themselves solely by their politics, this is a problem. And a break from them until after the election hooplah has died down might not be a bad idea.
Duct Tape Some Boundaries: If you find that you're getting too involved in the political mudpit online and it's affecting you in a negative way, protect yourself. Maybe this means you set a time limit of how long you're allowed to be on Facebook every day or evening; perhaps it entails restricting yourself from going back and posting your ninth response in that argument that got out of hand. Figure out where your behavior is feeling a little out of control and rein it in with a specific and tangible boundary that you reward yourself for not crossing.
Be Informed: On Facebook, misinformation, just like pictures of newborns in those lovely pink-and-blue-striped hats, can spread like wildfire. Make sure you don't contribute to the cesspool by automatically passing along something you see. A conscientious, thoughtful poster who takes the time to voice a dissenting opinion -- without any trace of passive-aggression -- can have more power than dozens of "sharers." Oh, what a Facebook that would be if everyone became such a poster!
Andrea Bonior, Ph.D is a licensed clinical psychologist, professor, and author of The Friendship Fix. She also writes the long-time mental health advice column Baggage Check in the Washington Post Express.
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