If you had the sneaking sensation someone blocked or ignored you on Facebook for posting about your political views, you’re probably right: A new Pew Research Center survey of 4,500 adults found that 83 percent of people flat-out ignore your political posts when they disagree with you. Meanwhile, 39 percent of respondents admitted to blocking, unfriending, or curating their feed to see fewer posts from someone. The reason? It’s mostly because the posts are offensive (61 percent), or you simply post too much political content (43 percent).
Such results fit with the polarizing political climate and its attendant avalanche of political hot takes, livestreams, memes, and smoking guns that appear daily, demand our attention, and crowd out most of our feeds. We read, we ignite, we take to social media to say so. And many of us make no attempt to play to our crowd.
So it’s no surprise that 51 percent of those surveyed feel the resulting discussions from such content are less respectful, or less civil (49 percent), and also angrier (49 percent) than they used to be. Over half (51 percent) surveyed think such discussions are truly hopeless causes that will not result in anything like a resolution.
In other words, more than ever, our Facebook and Twitter feeds are basically a typical family’s Thanksgiving dinner with that racist uncle. That’s likely true for the 39 percent of those surveyed who said online political discussions are pretty much as disrespectful online as anywhere else they run into them.
One obvious takeaway in the report is that, as anyone might have guessed, not everyone is jazzed about seeing nonstop political sparring all day long. Only about 20 percent of those surveyed said they enjoy all those Bernie or Bust posts, the latest Trump sexual allegation, or a new report about Clinton’s corruption, and find the resulting discussions in the comments enjoyable. But over a third, 37 percent, find them utterly fatiguing.
Other folks try to engage in political discussions online, but come away with a bad taste. 59 percent say the interactions they have on social media about politics, particularly with those they don’t agree with, are “stressful and frustrating,” and 64 percent say they leave such encounters with the pervasive sense that they have less in common than previously thought. This was true of those on both sides of the political spectrum.
This is not necessarily a bad thing though, because it means that our social media feeds, whether we follow people we know or complete strangers, tend to be less of an echo chamber than we might assume of others and are at least pushing disparate views our way, whether we follow friends or strangers. About a quarter of those surveyed who use both platforms say they see “a lot” of politics, and its coming from a mix of friends and strangers.
What’s more, in spite of how terribly many political discussions tend to go online, 57 percent of people surveyed still think social media does “somewhat well” getting people involved in issues they care about, while 53 percent feel it does the same job bringing new voices into the discussion. Another 45 percent think social media does alright at helping people learn about candidates.
None of this is particularly groundbreaking news: Yes, too much politics will wear you out, and many political discussions are a major bummer. But you can still find views that mirror and challenge your own, and there’s good information out there if you’re looking for it. And if not? Ignore. Block. Hide. Move on. Just as you’ve been doing.