The UK’s in a bit of a state at the moment. If you’re reading this in the US, you’ll probably have heard all kinds of stories – some true, some not so much. We’re approaching a general election at a time when our country’s already horribly divided over the Brexit vote. We know there was all kinds trickery going on when the whole Europe question floated to the top, three-point-something years ago.
There was the giant lie about money for the NHS, plastered across the side of a double decker bus, and we know there were some pretty dodgy social media campaigns going on too – fake news, clever targeting to sway the voting, all kinds of grubby electioneering. But that’s not really the point of this column.
The point is that our country is horribly divided – friends are arguing, families are falling out, relationships are fracturing, social media is full of heated debates at best.
If there really is a god of chaos, he – or she – will be wringing their hands and gleefully grinning from ear to ear.
What I really want to talk about this week, though, is not so much the state of the nation, but how to cope with it.
I hear there are similar divisions in the US when it comes to politics. Over here, we get the impression that there’s somewhat of an opinion schism over President Trump, for starters. So, what can we do about it all?
Well, aside from making sure we use our votes and, perhaps peacefully protesting if we feel called to do so, not much.
What we CAN take control of is the way we respond to others – particularly those with a different opinion to our own.
Nowhere is this more apparent than social media, right?
Passions are running high, so many of us are posting passionate content. Thing is, if we speak with passion, we should expect passionate reactions – which is all well and good, until those passionate opinions are different to our own.
I’ve been caught in the crossfire with some of this myself in the past week, and there are a couple of lessons learned, and observations made, that I’d like to offer to you.
A) We do not need to attend every argument to which we’re invited.
If someone is ‘wrong’ on social media, we don’t need to stomp in there and put the world to rights.
Remember that opinion is subjective, that people are feeling anxious, insecure, even afraid for the future right now.
Step back. Breathe.
Check in with your intentions: do you really need to write that update or comment on that post?
What do you want to achieve?
B) Be careful with those emojis!
If I hit one of those like/love/laugh emoticons, it means I’m commenting on all, or part, of that comment. It doesn’t mean anything else and there’s no hidden agenda.
This week, two people I know ended up embroiled in a heated political debate on Facebook.
When I hit the emojis on some of those comments, it was because I agreed with some of the points being raised, or I was ‘commenting’ on behaviours being displayed.
What I hadn’t expected was for my pal to see my emoji pushing as a show of support for another person’s ‘negative’ behaviour towards her.
That could not have been further from the truth, but intentions aren’t always obvious on social media!
All is well now, but it has raised an important point.
Emojis, by their very nature, are also a little bit subjective. For instance, if we hit the laughter emoji, does it mean we find the comment amusing, or that we’re laughing at the person commenting, or that we’re supporting the person in laughing at someone else?
Perception is king (or queen), and we need to remember that.
Consider all options – and possible outcomes – before you hit that button.
C) Remember the social media bubble
By their very nature, the algorithms behind social media platforms will fill your feeds with the kind of content you’re likely to engage with.
When it comes to politics – or any divisive subject – it’s highly likely your social media channels will be weighted towards the sharing of opinions you agree with.
Trouble is, this often serves to polarise opinions further.
You’ll be seeing news coverage and views that coincide with your own and, frequently, those that slate the other ‘side’. It becomes easy to assume you have the majority opinion and that anyone opposing that is just crazy.
We need to remember that both ‘teams’ will be being fed information in the same way.
It’s no wonder we react so strongly when we come up against someone with opinions that seem so out of whack.
That social media bubble has an awful lot to answer for!
What can we do about it?
Honestly, there’s no easy answer but, if we want to hold onto at least a little optimism in a world that feels so challenging, we need to work on keeping a level head AND flexing our positivity.
– Try thinking of five things you appreciate in life every morning – make it a habit and you’ll programme your mindset towards optimism and gratitude, instead of letting all that frustration and chaos cloud your judgement.
– Remember to breathe – a few moments of meditation each day can really help us to hold onto perspective.
– Stop and count to 100 before we post anything political online. Do the same before commenting on anyone else’s content. Check in with yourself and be really, brutally honest with yourself about your intention. If it doesn’t feel ‘clean’, don’t post.
– Create a positive news habit. Set out to post at least one piece of good news per day, so we do our part to inject some optimism and balance into the feeds. Try Googling ‘good news’ – there are plenty of sites dedicated to sharing the happier side of life if we search for them.
– Remember there are two sides to every coin, and it’s rare for either of them to be inherently ‘bad’. Could you try to see things from the opposite viewpoint, even for a moment? Could you have compassion for the person whose opinions sit opposite to yours? Do you need to react in that way?
Overall, try setting an emotional intention for your day. How do you want to feel by the end of the day? What can you do to effect that? You might find you don’t want to soak up all that social media drama in the first place.
Until next time,