By Pam Marino
In my last post I looked at why being a good neighbor/citizen means exercising the right to vote. Today I list ways to be kind to others during the election season—online and off—when emotions may run high.
There’s that old admonishment to “never talk about religion or politics,” but during a highly contested election it can be difficult to sidestep the topic of politics altogether. Especially with how interconnected many of us are on social media, we now find our news feeds filled with well-meaning (or not) family and friends expressing themselves with frequent clicks.
Here’s my list of ways to be a good and kind neighbor in the public space (in person and online) during the election. It’s not always easy; I admit it’s challenging for me to follow my own advice, and I’ve stumbled a number of times. Here’s to all of us elevating civility and focusing on the greater good at election time.
During an election a good neighbor:
- Is educated about his/her political positions before sharing with others. This takes a little homework, but it needs to be done anyway to be an informed voter. Seek out nonpartisan sources of information on candidates and issues, and don’t rely on only one source of news information (i.e. watch more than one news network or type of political show, read more than one newspaper, website, columnist, etc.). A good place to find nonpartisan info is the League of Women Voters (the California site is at ca.lwv.org), which also has its Smart Voter site, with links to more than a dozen other nonpartisan websites. KQED offers a comprehensive California Proposition Guide.
- Goes on an information diet, if necessary. Having encouraged you to seek out information, let me add here that if you find too much campaign information and rhetoric is stirring up agitation in you, it’s OK to back off from it. Get the (factual) info you need to vote, and then curtail your input. If you find your social media friends are the source of too much info or opinions that distress you, you can take a break until after the election, or temporarily “hide” friends. You’ll be a better friend to all if you’re not walking around upset and stressed by the political season.
- Talks less and listens more, online and off. Even if you’re passionate about a particular candidate or measure, limit how often you share your opinions and data. This includes sharing others’ photos/memes/status updates on social media. Once your general public knows where you stand, consider only engaging in discussion when asked, or limit how much you share online. And definitely spend more time listening to family and friends than speaking. Ask questions in a respectful manner to get to the root of why they believe the way they do. Your willingness to listen will go farther than continuously pressing your viewpoint. Unless you’re engaging in conversation with people who are truly undecided (including social media conversations), you’re not going to change anyone’s opinion.
- Is polite and kind even when someone is being insistent about his or her viewpoint. Find an excuse to change the subject, or offer a friendly, “We’ll have to agree to disagree.”
- Carefully considers his or her words before speaking/sharing. I heard someone say recently that before you send something into the cyber world, stop and think about whether you would want your words emblazoned on a billboard facing a busy freeway, no matter how limited or private you think access is. Same goes for in-person conversations. Would you be embarrassed or feel guilty later for something you said, or the impact your words or attitude had on someone else? I would include in here carefully considering anything you may “like” on social media or websites, because that will come up on your friends’ feeds, and be recorded on your profile. So even if you think you’re not “saying anything” because you’re not putting it in status updates, your “likes” may be saying it for you. One more note about online sharing: consider the tone, and how that might be perceived. What sounds OK in your head might come off more negative in digital communications.
For the complete list of how to be a good neighbor during an election, see the Good Neighbor Stories website.
What would you add to the list? Tell us in the comments section!