Have you ever defriended or unfollowed someone based on their political speech on social media? Have you ever thought you knew a person’s politics, only to find them screaming about fluoride in toothpaste and spies in our televisions on Facebook?
Pew Internet Research set about finding answers to these and other questions about how our social networking world has affected our understanding of our civic life. Much of the information confirms what we all know: the more politically-active we are, the more likely our politics are to affect our friendships. And unsurprisingly, the farther-removed our friendships are, the more likely they are to be affected by politics.
What is interesting to me is the number of self-identified liberals who say they have unfriended someone based on their political statements is consistently double that of independents and about a third more than Conservatives. Specifically, it seems posting something we liberals disagree with is what sets us off. There are lots of variables to this: what was posted, what is considered defending, how honestly the respondents respond. But the trend is pretty remarkable.
And unsurprisingly, nearly a fifth of all social networking users say they have avoided making political statements on social networks for fear of offending others. And by-and-large, people with similar political beliefs tend to flock together on social networks as much as anywhere else. Nearly half of all liberal and conservative political “commentators” say they agree with their friends’ political posts all or nearly all the time.