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Frustrated by social media political posts? You’re not alone

Monday, Oct 31, 2016

* From the Pew Research Center

More than one-third of social media users are worn out by the amount of political content they encounter, and more than half describe their online interactions with those they disagree with politically as stressful and frustrating

The roughly two-thirds of American adults who use social media sites express a relatively wide range of opinions on the political interactions they witness and take part in on these platforms. Many feel overloaded by political content and view their social media interactions with those they disagree with as a source of frustration and annoyance. At the same time, a substantial minority of users enjoy the ability to consume political content and engage in discussions with people on the other side of issues:

    * Nearly twice as many social media users say they are “worn out” by the amount of political content they see in their feeds (37%) as say they like seeing lots of political information (20%). Still, about four-in-ten (41%) indicate that they don’t feel particularly strongly one way or the other about the amount of political content they encounter on social media.

    * 59% say their social media interactions with those with opposing political views are stressful and frustrating – although 35% find them interesting and informative.

    * 64% say their online encounters with people on the opposite side of the political spectrum leave them feeling as if they have even less in common than they thought – although 29% say they end these discussions feeling that they have more in common than they might have anticipated. […]

Some 40% of users agree strongly with the notion that social media are places where people say things while discussing politics that they would never say in person (an additional 44% feel that this statement describes social media somewhat well).

Meanwhile, roughly half of users feel the political conversations they see on social media are angrier (49%), less respectful (53%) and less civil (49%) than those in other areas of life. At the same time, a notable minority feels that the political discussions they see on social media are largely reflective of the political discussions they witness in other areas of their lives: For instance, 39% of users feel that these interactions are no more less respectful than other political interactions they encounter. And a small share finds political debates on social media to be more civil (7%), more informative (14%) and more focused on important policy issues (10%) than those they see elsewhere. […]

When ignoring problematic content fails, social media users tend to utilize technological tools to remove troublesome users from their feeds entirely. Nearly one-third of social media users (31%) say they have changed their settings in order to see fewer posts from someone in their feed because of something related to politics, while 27% have blocked or unfriended someone for that reason. Taken together, this amounts to 39% of social media users – and 60% of them indicate that they took this step because someone was posting political content that they found offensive. […]

Even as their overall political attitudes differ dramatically, Democrats and Republicans (including independents and other nonpartisans who “lean” toward either party) tend to view and utilize social media in largely comparable ways. For instance, they are equally likely to say that they comment, post about or engage in political discussions on social media (10% of Republican users and 8% of Democrats do so often). And a nearly identical share from each party feels worn out by the amount of political material they encounter on social media (38% of Democrats and 37% of Republicans who use social media report this) or feel that the conversations they see on social media are angrier and less civil than in other venues where these conversations occur. However, Democrats who use social media are somewhat more likely to view these sites as useful vehicles for bringing new voices into the political arena.

Thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller        

29 Comments
  1. - cover - Monday, Oct 31, 16 @ 9:31 am:

    = And a small share finds political debates on social media to be more civil (7%), more informative (14%) and more focused on important policy issues (10%) than those they see elsewhere. =

    Did the survey include an oversampling of Capitol Fax users?


  2. - Gooner - Monday, Oct 31, 16 @ 9:35 am:

    I definitely agree. It has become far too political, and too often, far too heated.

    I regularly check my own page. I treat politics as I do business. I will include the occasional political post, just as I will an occasional reference to business. However, it is important that neither of those two overwhelm the page.

    Unless you are actually in the political business, the page should have more than just political stuff. There has to be more to life than just an election.


  3. - Amalia - Monday, Oct 31, 16 @ 9:43 am:

    heated political arguments or lots of chatter, not troublesome to me. what is troublesome is a candidate face with a target, or a noose, or getting harassed because I am a woman or watching others be harassed because of their gender/identity/people they love/race/ethnicity. that bashing is troublesome. hard to tell if the percentage is greater or just the numbers which increase the noise but it’s all very disturbing.


  4. - Jocko - Monday, Oct 31, 16 @ 9:43 am:

    I wish people would give as much thought to November 9th as they seem to be doing for November 8th.


  5. - Ron Burgundy - Monday, Oct 31, 16 @ 9:45 am:

    I recently have unfollowed people who get too vitriolic or one-note about politics. I will bring them back post-election day. Combined with rabid Cubs fans getting the same treatment things are nice and quiet now. I personally do not engage in political arguments on social media as I subscribe to the theory that no one’s mind ever gets changed about politics by arguing on the internet.


  6. - Responsa - Monday, Oct 31, 16 @ 9:52 am:

    I think that using social media sites such as twitter and facebook to overshare, pontificate and push agendas (of all sorts not just political) has given many people the belief that they are smarter, better, more important, more influential, etc. than they really are. Instead, they too often come across as closed minded, intolerant, harassing, narcissistic and/or mean. When family relationships and friendships are damaged or ended by someone’s use of social media that should be a clue to pull back and reevaluate–not dig in—but often it is not.


  7. - illini - Monday, Oct 31, 16 @ 9:55 am:

    This is one reason I have refused to create any social media accounts/pages for myself.

    Yet, I do have a Facebook account ( not a personal page ) only because it is required to post comments on certain online blogs and newspaper posts and stories. And Facebook does notify me if others like or have commented on my posts.


  8. - Anonymous - Monday, Oct 31, 16 @ 10:04 am:

    For me it’s not so much the volume, as it is the stupidity. It seems like most of my feed these days is postings of obviously false stories from random websites (it’s on the internet, so it must be true!). Added to that the herd mentality that takes hold, where you only end up talking with those who agree with you, ignoring or personally insulting anyone who doesn’t, and it all just creates a toxic atmosphere.


  9. - Team Sleep - Monday, Oct 31, 16 @ 10:11 am:

    It is both sad and infuriating that people are ending friendships and distancing themselves from family over a presidential election. People are acting aggrieved because a friend or family member is supporting a candidate. This trend truly worries me. Is this now the norm? Will we go through this every election cycle? Are people really this sensitive and unwilling to accept that others are different? Some of my closest friends during college - and now - are Dems. My wife is a Dem. I refuse to allow someone’s political affiliation/leaning to hamper my relationship with that person. I do not consider that at the same level as someone’s character. I cannot wait until this election is over, but I fear that we are on the cusp of something worse.


  10. - Downstate Democrat - Monday, Oct 31, 16 @ 10:14 am:

    For me, it’s the rise of partisan media sources that are undermining the integrity of the debate. These biased, sometimes fact-free posts, are tossed onto the social media world (Facebook, etc.) like gasoline on a fire.


  11. - Downstate Democrat - Monday, Oct 31, 16 @ 10:28 am:

    Team Sleep - I couldn’t agree more.


  12. - @MisterJayEm - Monday, Oct 31, 16 @ 10:29 am:

    “Thoughts?”

    Too overly-broad to be useful.

    First, the phrase “social media” conflates too many, very different, things. There are big differences between the way Facebook and Twitter are used.

    Facebook is primarily a two-way tool for connecting with people whom you actually know, to some degree, in real life, i.e. family, friends, friends from the past, forgotten family. Many (most?) people use FB to keep up with the lives of people whom they have some kind of relationship — even if it was just way back in grade school — and to share the events of their lives with same. This sharing of family life creates, or at least replicates, a degree of personal intimacy.

    It is for this reason that the interjection of angry political posts is off-putting. It violates the “you can share your family’s vacations with me if I can share our family’s vacations with you” contract.

    Face it: nobody accepted your FB friend invite because they your views on the candidates. (Paraphrasing my mom, “He wasn’t very bright when I taught him in Sunday school, why does he insist that we ALL see that he hasn’t gotten any smarter — when I just want to see pictures of his kids?”)

    By contrast, Twitter is not reciprocal. If I follow a political figure, I see her posts but she is not obligated to see mine. It’s one-way. While I can broadcast my political views to anyone who cares to read ‘em — https://twitter.com/MisterJayEm — I can’t *impose* my political views on anyone through Twitter.

    On Twitter, unlike FB, if you get someone ding-dong’s political hot-takes, it’s because you asked to get them.

    Second, the phrase “political content” conflates too many, very different, things.

    It encompasses everything from the (semi-)thoughtful political discussions that can take place under the FB posts of serious political journalists to the hateful, bigoted and factually-incorrect ‘meme’ pictures posted and reposted by the sub-literate.

    Regardless of your politics or our familial ties, too much of the latter and I’ll cut you lose. But I’ll gladly take as much of the former as these internets have to offer.

    – MrJM


  13. - Saluki - Monday, Oct 31, 16 @ 10:31 am:

    I have “unfollowed” hundreds of people over the last few months. I refuse to be force fed headlines from fake news sources, or be baited into wild social media debates. I know where to get news, and that is from news sources, not from my facebook feed.


  14. - LizPhairTax - Monday, Oct 31, 16 @ 10:33 am:

    it is possible to quit.

    Why use a product that you find stressful and frustrating?


  15. - RNUG - Monday, Oct 31, 16 @ 10:36 am:

    It’s not just politics but lack of civility in general that are turning some people off of social media.

    Of course, as others have noted, you can somewhat control what you see and create your own “safe space”.


  16. - jeffinginchicago - Monday, Oct 31, 16 @ 10:50 am:

    My in-laws politics are very different than mine. I was very worried about spending time with them in August. They are much nicer and open in person than on Facebook. Social media does not allow for that nuance of actually caring about who is reading what is written.


  17. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Oct 31, 16 @ 10:50 am:

    1) if you’re not checking out @misterjayem on Twitter, you are missing out. Flat out fun.

    2) there are reasons and rationales to social media. Making it 100% politically driven will drive away family, friends, the curious. As in life, the most well-rounded have the biggest impact on who they connect to, and sometimes that means 86ing the political on the platform.


  18. - Romeo - Monday, Oct 31, 16 @ 10:51 am:

    This is why I don’t have Facebook, Twitter, etc.

    Remember: when the product is “free,” YOU are the product.


  19. - Responsa - Monday, Oct 31, 16 @ 10:51 am:

    Mr. JM–

    Sorry, but Twitter screen grabs are posted all the time on facebook posts and are also incorporated within other articles which are being posted on facebook. Twitter is very much part of the larger facebook “problem” and really cannot be separated from that even though they are a different brand.


  20. - Steve Rogers - Monday, Oct 31, 16 @ 10:54 am:

    The larger problem I see is that this isn’t going to end after election day. We’re still enduring stories about Obama being a secret socialist, Nazi, Muslim not born in the U.S. Next we will be hearing about what a crook (fill in the blank)is and how he/she should never be president. November 8 only completes one chapter. Social media is still going to be a forum for stupidity, untruths, and pontificating. But hey, at least I can look at your nice vacation pics in Jamaica.


  21. - CrazyHorse - Monday, Oct 31, 16 @ 10:58 am:

    Agree with RNUG. Far too often you are called an idiot or given a label such as a racist, bigot, homophobe, etc. for supporting a certain candidate. It’s frightening.

    Trying to find a candidate whose views mirror your own 100% is like trying to find a purple unicorn. In reality, at least IMHO, we all pick issues that are most important to us and vote accordingly. For example, as a state employee, I simply will not ever support Rauner. While I might disagree heartily on many issues with whomever the Dems run against him, I simply know the disdain Rauner has for state employees. Knowing that, I’d support nearly anyone running against him as short-sighted as it may seem. Well, I’d have a hard time getting behind Pat Quinn again but…


  22. - @MisterJayEm - Monday, Oct 31, 16 @ 11:05 am:

    You’re describing someone violating the ‘FB social contract’ Responsa. You didn’t ask to see the screen-grab that they posted on FB, but they did ask to see the content that they screen-grabbed from Twitter.

    An analogy: If I drew an offensive political cartoon and then posted a photograph of it, the problem wouldn’t be in the pen and pencil, or in the camera — the problem would be *solely* my abuse of our Facebook relationship.

    Twitter has serious and well-documented problems (especially for users who aren’t white dudes like yrs truly) but I wouldn’t say that’s one of ‘em.

    – MrJM


  23. - Responsa - Monday, Oct 31, 16 @ 11:23 am:

    Heh, Mr. JM. All I know is that if I’m being fed garbage that originated on twitter (regardless of internet etiquette, or the technicalities, or user contracts, or legal nuances of how they got on facebook) it’s still part of the social media poison discussion being referenced in this thread. No personal disrespect to you as a twitter writer or follower is intended in the least.


  24. - @MisterJayEm - Monday, Oct 31, 16 @ 11:29 am:

    “No personal disrespect to you as a twitter writer or follower is intended in the least.”

    None taken! (And I certainly don’t expect anyone else to have over-thought such matters as much as I may have.)

    – MrJM


  25. - Team Sleep - Monday, Oct 31, 16 @ 12:00 pm:

    I wonder what people will say on November 9th. If one is an HRC supporter then what happens if Donald Trump wins? If one is a Trump support then what happens if HRC wins? In my old stomping grounds what are Mike Mathis backers going to do if Avery Bourne wins her first full term? What are state workers going to do if Tony D loses? The world will not end.


  26. - Ron Burgundy - Monday, Oct 31, 16 @ 12:20 pm:

    –Social media is still going to be a forum for stupidity, untruths, and pontificating.–

    Seems like every week for example a FB friend of mine reposts that stupid “disclaimer” that FB is a public entity and it can use your photos unless you cite the UCC and the Rome Statute in a post and say no. Total nonsense, but people do it anyway. With the Rome Statute cited for protection so often, I am deeply alarmed by the number of my friends who apparently committed war crimes.


  27. - Anonymous - Monday, Oct 31, 16 @ 3:09 pm:

    I’m sick of all the political ads on Facebook, the news, the mail, the phone calls, etc.. OMG! I can not wait for this election to be over.


  28. - Thoughts Matter - Monday, Oct 31, 16 @ 4:09 pm:

    Got to agree with MJM on the purpose of Facebook. I have hidden all posts of memes from various propaganda websites( love that Hide feature). Problem is the websites keep multiplying. I have unfollowed various friends, unfriended others. I’m stuck with family though. What annoys me the most is that certain people just don’t care that they are annoying their Facebook friends by their rude, crude, and disrespectful memes about people who deserve to be respected for the service they have provided for decades. What scares me the most is that I didn’t realize that some of my family and friends were like this. It’s not about who they support, it’s how they express it.


  29. - Timmeh - Monday, Oct 31, 16 @ 8:16 pm:

    The internet in general is a pretty aggressive, but there’s plenty of good communities out there. I think as social media starts programming for evil and law enforcement gets a better handle on social media threats, we’ll see more people engaging in productive conversations.

    http://www.gaijin.com/2015/04/designing-for-evil/


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