You're so close. You’ve almost made it through the 2016 presidential race. Remember when Rick Perry pulled the classic Clark Kent trick? Ah, life was so simple then.
Thinking back to a time before anyone in America could even consider a one-time reality TV host and a former First Lady as presidential contenders seems like forever ago, and yet, it still feels like Election Day is far, far away. We've already been through so much, but it seems like there's always a new headline vying for our ever-fraying attention spans. This can make you feel restless. Agitated. And maybe, just maybe, a little defensive. But, stay calm! Just because you've seen other people's tempers get the best of them doesn't mean you have to follow suit. The only thing you have to fear is being a jerk yourself.
As it turns out, you can support your preferred candidate without being that person: overly opinionated and openly confrontational. But how, when things have gotten so heated, do you manage to keep your cool? By following a list of six simple do's and don'ts. Consider this list to be a constitution for your conscience, because believe it or not, this election will end — and you don't want to be surrounded by burned bridges when it's over. So, take a breath. And another. Good. You're going to make it to November 8 in one piece, and this is how you'll do it without being a jerk.
Do: Stay Engaged, But Stay Positive
Yes, go right ahead and tell people you're registered to vote, and heck, tweet about that fact. Link where your followers can go for voter registration (how helpful of you!). Update your Facebook timeline with a thoughtful explanation for why you're ready for change and who you think will best to make it happen. Expressing an opinion is your right, but you can do so in a proactive, personal way.
Do: Practice Restraint on Social Media
According to a recent survey by Pew Research Center, 62 percent of American adults get their news on social media, and 18 percent of that group says they do so often. And as great as it is to be able to see the day's news alongside your high school friend's engagement photos, beware: the immediacy of posting and commenting can make it easy for you to share your every election-related emotion. And, be honest, sometimes those emotions get heated.
Do: Discuss Your Opinion — But Know Your Audience
Research your candidate, and if you like what you see, discuss your thoughts with people in person. Pro tip: knowledge is power. But chat with tact. Don't hassle your 85-year-old grandpa for loving Hillary if she's not your pick. Ask your Lyft driver which candidate he's voting for if he's shown interest in the subject. Promote healthy political discussions without turning them into arguments. Start a conversation. Ask, don’t tell. And try not to yell, if possible.
Don't: Hashtag the News
Rise above the temptation to simply skim your Twitter feed for trending hashtags regarding the election, and then letting your investigation stop there. While hashtags have become an important tool for breaking news worldwide, this should not be where your quest for news starts and ends. Hashtags are tampered with, sponsored and fleeting (at times all at once). Simply skimming hashtags are a great way to catch up on local happenings, especially now that you can adjust which hashtags you see on your feed based on location, but know this is a narrow glimpse of the deeper story.
Don't: Always, Always Steer the Discussion Toward Politics
Your level of engagement during the process can vary. Don’t think you need to be an outspoken (re: annoying) advocate who flings politically charged information at people when they don’t ask for it, and don't feel the need to post exhaustive rants via social media every hour. Level the playing field by being objective about the information you share. Let those who engage come to you because you have interesting ideas, and not simply because you said something that caused an emotional firestorm.
Don't: Make Personal Attacks Your Only Move
Ok, ok, so politics can be touchy. And it's true, our candidates haven't exactly taken the high road at every turn. But there's a difference between a presidential candidate disparaging a naysayer and you ranting at your friend: scheduling. When the election comes to a close, it's safe to say that Clinton and Trump will have busy calendars regardless of whether or not that includes a move-in day at the White House. But as for you? You're probably going to have a free Saturday or two in your future. And all of the people you called "idiots" probably won't be worried if you do.