The political season is upon us and we are way into mud-slinging between party candidates. Within both Republican and Democrat parties, the primary candidates are calling each other out for their words, actions or beliefs.
And between the two parties, the accusations are flying like kites on a perfect day in May.
Of course, this leads some who follow Candidate A, Candidate B or Candidate None-of-the-above to take to social media to share their thoughts. Occasionally, posts are thoughtful, respectful and honoring of others. But too often, people treat social media as their personal soapbox to call out not only other candidates, but also those who would dare to support the opposition.
Some of the comments are gentle, but I'm seeing increased hostility towards those who support opposing parties or candidates. It's not uncommon to see posts stating "I can't understand how anyone could be stupid enough to support Candidate A" or "If you are my friend on Facebook and support Candidate B, just unfriend me now!"
I fully understand the passion that comes with wanting what you believe is best for our country. I also can empathize with the urge to make your opinion known. But I have refrained from sharing my political beliefs online for a number of reasons. Doing so doesn't make me a better person, but it does make me a happier one.
Here are five things to keep in mind as we approach political season and you make choices as to how you will conduct yourself in the social space.
1) Your friends are voting different than you are.
Statistically speaking, it's likely that many of your friends that are referred to as "stupid" are voting for someone else. It's common for those who approve of your rant to like your posts and leave comments of support. But the silence of those whom you have just insulted says far more about the harm you may be causing to your relationships.
It may surprise you to discover that someone intelligent and thoughtful has a belief or opinion which differs from your own. But the truth is that many of your friends are likely to be smart, successful and reasonable people. Otherwise, why would they be your friends in the first place? A label may make you feel superior or justified, but the truth is that healthy relationships are based upon mutual understanding which takes the hard work of honest and open conversation.
Not only can your very vocal opinion, and condemnation of individuals rather than the ideology they appear to support, cause mistrust in a personal relationship, but the damage can easily find its way into the business sphere. If you post something that offends large numbers of people, chances are it will affect your bottom line.
2) We all basically want the same thing, but have different ways of going about it.
For the most part, all American share similar values. We all want freedom, equality and fairness. We also want to see our economy prosper. With the exception of those who have become embittered, the majority have no qualms with others' success.
It's clear that those on both sides of the aisle believe that the other party, or even specific candidates, do not have the best interest of America at heart.
It's certainly up for debate as to whether those in power are truly concerned for their constituency or if they are just drunk with power. What's important to remember is that most citizens want what is best. Whether on the left, right or in the center, we all basically want the same thing. We just have different ways of going about accomplishing those goals. Recognizing that the motives of those on the other side of the aisle likely come from a sincere place can help in seeking understanding and going a little easier on your fellow citizens.
3) Odds are you won't get what you want from whoever is elected president anyway, even if your guy wins.
I hate to be the cynic, but I've experienced several decades of Presidents during my lifetime. I can tell you it is rare that the people who have elected a President or congress end up happy with the job performance. Approval ratings are fickle things. Coming to terms with things as they are can help you focus on what's important in your life and perhaps lower your blood pressure.
4) Real change takes place from the citizens of countries.
If you really want to make a difference, do it with action. Work hard and produce quality goods and services that benefit others. Spend time with your family and make memories that leave a meaningful legacy. Donate your time, talents and resources to a cause bigger than yourself. Anyone can be a Monday morning quarterback. Get out there on the field and make a positive difference in your sphere of influence.
5) There is much more that makes us alike than that which separates us.
Politicians often appeal to our most primal and base emotions, with the purpose of getting us to react in a negative way. Let's face it. Television news is rarely accurate (regardless of your opinion of ANY of the major networks) and works best when it is selling fear. The news, bolstered by the commercials which support it, are there to sell you toilet paper and toothpaste.
I have MANY friends on the opposite side of the political aisle from me. I enjoy them for the people that they are and not how they punch the ballot on election day. I'm happy to have heart-to-heart discussions with any of them on the issues that matter to me, but never in a hostile environment. I care more about the relationships I have with these people than I do stepping up on the social media soapbox and making my opinion known. I'd find it devastating to discover that many of the people I am casually labeling as "stupid" are actually bright people that I value.
At the end of the day, there is WAY more that we have in common than that which separates us. We share a love for freedom, family, faith and an American dream that promises opportunity to make the life we want.
I'm not suggesting that we shun the political process. On the contrary, I think it is essential that every citizen make it their civic duty to be informed and vote.
I'm also not saying that we should debate the important issues surrounding us on a national, state and local level. If you feel called to engage in this debate and let your opinion be known, there are mature, healthy and respectful ways to do so. But rants on social media that alienate, label or otherwise demean those who see things differently serve absolutely no purpose towards accomplishing those goals. In all likelihood, those kinds of posts are having the opposite effect.
The political season has already arrived and the heat is already at a boil. May we each carefully consider how we show up on social media with our opinions and concerns. May we all put our personal relationships before our personal beliefs. And may we discover a kinder discourse that would lead to greater understanding between one another. In doing so, may we build a strong future for generations that are yet to come.