What the Current Political Race has Taught Me about Friendship

I hate that trivial things, such as not seeing a smiley face next to my best friend's’ name on Snapchat, make me feel a little less whole. I hate that when I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is check my group text messages I missed, and continue to read through them until I'm all caught up. I hate that when I walk around campus with my phone away in my backpack, I can’t even try to make eye contact with someone because the world has turned into a bunch of moving slumped figures idling through life with their eyes glued to a screen.  

We have become a society that does not know how to live away from screens and media, and we base our happiness off the results and reactions we get from them. If we don’t get enough “likes” on our photos, we are not pretty enough. If we do not get the mass Snapchat that our friend sent out to our whole friend group, then maybe we are no longer as loved. If we dare post a political thought on social media, we are attacked.

I believe that the blown-up and largely exaggerated political turmoil in this recent presidential race has taught me far more about friendship than politics. It has taught me that people may “block” me if I ever hint at a notion that they don’t agree with. It has taught me that, though we swear as millennials we are open-minded and embrace differences, we will not hesitate to shame the differences of someone we feel “close” and “comfortable” with. It has taught me that as a generation, maybe even as a society, we have forgotten how to take ourselves out of our own little comfortable bubble of our 4-inch phone screen and realize that life is moving, living and breathing around us, and if we do not embrace the differences around us, we will destroy it with our own selfishness.

The real world has real repercussions, and this political race and age in social media perfectly exemplifies why more than ever we need to hesitate the natural urge to delete a friend’s differing thought or idea, and instead embrace it. After all, we are humans with an infinite amount of brain space to grow and learn from others, not smartphones with 32 GB of memory. Here are a few tidbits I've learned these past few months as we approach the presidential election.

It's vital to be tolerant
I don’t care who you support politically, and neither should your friends, because that’s what friends do — they support you no matter what. It seems that every day my Facebook feed is filled with the most disrespectful things — things that until recently I never thought people would have the courage to say in person, not just through a screen. Since all we do all day is stare at our phones and selectively expose ourselves to the information we agree with, we absorb all of this and then swear we are some all-knowing political guru filled with passion and knowledge when all we did was read the freakin' Huffington Post. Your friends should still be your friends even though they don’t have to think like you. They don’t have to pray like you. They don’t have to vote like you. They just have to be respectful of you.

You should never shut others down
It’s scary to have a voice in today’s world. Sure, we can make a vague post somewhere on some medium, and people will see it and form opinions about us. But having a direct voice — I mean speaking from ourselves and for ourselves, not just nodding our heads in agreement with a link shared on Facebook. It is hard to tell your friend with depression that you think he or she should seek help, but you do it because you care about him or her. It is hard to tell a friend that it was wrong that she cheated, but you do because you don’t want her to do it again.

It is equally as hard to speak about a just as personal topic, whether it be religion, race, sex or politics, with friends because there are so many different avenues of views, twists and turns of ideas and leaps and bounds of ideologies. You don’t have to agree, you don’t have to nod, and you don’t have to yell. Just listen. An open ear often means a lot more in a friendship than an open dialogue.

If you can’t deal with the repercussions, abstain from it
If you don’t want to step on anyone’s toes or cause any personal strife, don’t talk about politics. It is a slippery slope, and unfortunately not every friendship and friend group can handle it. This is fine because politics are personal. No one needs to know these things. They are not worth ruining a friendship over, and if you fear they might, it’s up to you do decide what you think is more important..

This presidential race is an important one, and there is no reason why any one of you shouldn’t vote. Women gained suffrage in 1919 so that you could execute your right to smile and nod when your friends tell you their political opinions that you wholeheartedly detest. Just kidding! Go out and vote, but with friends and social media, maybe it’s a good idea to tread lightly. Friendships are wonderful relationships worth keeping, and personal ideologies should not interfere with your coffee plans you had for Saturday morning. Just be sure to find the right balance between liberating your personal ideas and views and making sure you’re not jeopardizing someone else’s. Once again, we aren’t smartphones, and we don’t have autocorrect, so think before you speak. Remember that you should love your friends for who they are, not for who they choose on the ballot.

Photo credit: Reddit.com