WTVM Special Report: How to Handle Political Posts

Barbara Gauthier WTVM has tips on what you can do to preserve your sanity when political posts get too preachy.
Barbara Gauthier WTVM has tips on what you can do to preserve your sanity when political posts get too preachy.

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - With just months to go before we pick a new president, it looks like social media is going to play a key role in the election.

Candidates try to reach out to voters and convince them they're the best person for the job. But what about when your friends post their own political views on social media? How do you deal with posts on your newsfeed that you find insulting or rude?
Furniture repairman Jeff Davis likes to go on Facebook to keep in touch with family and friends, and occasionally he uses it as a political sounding board.

"The adage 'let's agree to disagree,' that's where I fall with a lot of people," Davis says.

Davis admits his political posts have led some people to "unfriend" him on Facebook.

"Most of them, it's kind of a bittersweet thing, because they're still friends as far as I'm concerned," Davis said.

These social media comments are what political scientist Dr. Michael Cornfield is studying.  He's comparing how presidential candidates are mentioned in social media to how they're talked about in mainstream media.

"It's an important topic because today, more and more people are getting their political news and opinions from Facebook and social media," Dr. Cornfield says.

Dr. Jim Coleman, Associate Professor of Marketing at Columbus State University, agrees.

"Social media can be very effective, not just in helping to contact people but also energizing them, getting them involved, letting them build their own networks and then pass the message on to their friends," Dr. Coleman says.

Coleman also says it's not one message coming out from candidates anymore, it's a whole series of customized messages tailored to suit each audience.

"As far as the traditional use they're still doing that, they're building their brand image like any product, but they're able to do that in a much more customized fashion, a more intimate fashion," says Coleman.

While many see this as one of the most interesting presidential campaigns in a while, experts say the overwhelming presence of social media has added an even more interesting element to the discussion. It gives supporters of various candidates an open and unfiltered microphone.

"I think people have always been passionate about politics and now with social media there are more outlets and more ways to express it," says Dr. Jessica Myrick, an Assistant Professor at The Media School at Indiana University. "You can share a news story, and show your opinion, or you can write a page-long rant."

She suggests that people think before they post and don't let emotions get the best of them.

"I think when people are posting about politics on social media they should imagine if they ran into their social media friends in the grocery store and just said the same thing there in person, how others would react," says Myrick.

While you might feel uninhibited when posting your views and opinions on social media, remember once it's out there it's hard to take it back. The best advice, especially for students experts say, is to post things as though they'll be seen and read years from now at a job interview.

As far as what to do if you're offended by a political post, Coleman says you don't necessarily have to take drastic measures.

"It's sort of a harsh step to "unfriend" someone, most of the social media posts allow you to temporarily bock messages from someone and it doesn't really notify them that you've done that. So if you find someone offensive that's the best way. But if you really don't like them go ahead and "unfriend" them," Coleman says.

However, if you don't want to take the drastic step of "unfriending" someone another option is to "unfollow" that person until the election is over. That's a slightly more subtle way to avoid seeing their posts.

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