Facebook and other forms of social media seem to have helped remove some of those filters. We’re “speaking” to friends, some of us many times per day, but not face-to-face. And those social niceties aren’t observed. The acrimony of the election creeps into our lives, uninvited, through offensive posts.
And those end friendships.
As Howard Kurtz reported in March in The Daily Beast, “According to a fascinating survey by the Pew Internet Project, 9 percent of those who frequent social networking sites have blocked, unfriended or hidden someone because they posted something about politics or issues that the user disagreed with or found offensive. Eight percent have blocked, unfriended or hidden someone because they argued about politics with someone the user knows.”
The problem isn’t politics — it’s in how we talk about and, perhaps, think about the issues. In the current climate, the other person isn’t merely wrong — he’s bad. We too often attack a candidate, not the candidate’s positions. And we too easily assume the worst about candidates, and even about our friends who support those candidates: “If you support President Barack Obama, you must be waiting on a check.” “If you support Gov. Mitt Romney, you don’t care about poor people.” Those are actual Facebook posts we’ve seen.
Who wants to lose friends over dead economists?
The hyperbole hasn’t helped. Commentators declare this is the most important election in history, that the Republic is ruined if the wrong man is elected.
Perhaps too many of us buy into this ratings-driven rhetoric. It’s wrong. This is just another election. It’s important, but not more important than our relationships.
Loving our neighbor doesn’t rule out occasionally disagreeing with him. But in a few days, those signs will be gone. Our neighbor will still be there, and we’ll share chores and challenges and community — as long as our houses are no longer divided.