As the holidays approach and you prepare to spend time with the relatives you only see once a year, it's a good time to remember that old adage: Don't talk about politics or religion at the dinner table.
That rule holds true for the social media table as well: It turns out that during politically charged times, politically active Facebook users are more likely to “unfriend” people, according to a new joint study from Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University.
“People unfriend people who have different political views to theirs," professor Nicholas John of Hebrew University in Jerusalem told ScienceDaily. “We already know that Facebook and search engines provide us with a feed and search results that are tailored to us. By unfriending, we are further contributing to the formation of echo chambers and filter bubbles."
Don't be 'that' guy
Jaime Banks, a professor who studies society and technology at West Virginia University, has some ideas on how to navigate these situations and improve your online interactions. "In political discussions where you have a strong opinion, try engaging others through questions rather than strong statements, draw on data and logic instead of emotion, and try to move outside your comfort zone to consider how you might reach a middle ground with others’ opinions," she told MNN.
Even though political differences can threaten a relationship, social networks can provide fertile ground for coming together, says Banks. "It can remove the more volatile nonverbal dimensions of social interaction — like loud voices, angry faces or excited gestures — so people can find common ground among 'softer' discussion topics that tend to bring people together, such as good memories, commiserating over mutual woes, or even laughing over cat pictures."
And if none of those activities work, you can always turn to music, as this hilarious sketch from "Saturday Night Live" proves: