A lot has changed in the months since Donald Trump was sworn into office, both on a political level and a personal one. Bustle’s State of Our Unions series looks at how millennial women's relationships with their friends, family members, and romantic partners have been affected since the 2016 election. Today's topic: How social media habits have changed since November.
In recent years, social media has had a huge effect on how we consume information. And at no time were our social media habits more obvious than during the 2016 election. According to a survey by SurveyMonkey, 44 percent of millennials were using social media to share their opinions about the election, compared to the 35 percent of Americans of all age groups. As for what political party was the most outspoken in sharing their views on social media, that would be the liberal Democrats, at 47 percent.
Mark Zuckerberg may have created Facebook as a means for college students to connect and see who's dating who, but it's evolved plenty since then into a platform for opinions and even change. Twitter is also being used in this way, despite the minimal 140 character limit, which can put a damper on a proper political rant.
But what happens when the rants and political arguments online are starting to get to you — or you see that you really don't agree with some of your Facebook friends? "As tempting and cathartic as it might feel to throw verbal bombs on FB or Twitter, it just demonstrates that you are emotionally immature and impulsive," Dr. Ben Michaelis, clinical psychologist and creator of OneMinuteDiagnosis.com, tells Bustle. "Also, don't unfriend people just because they think differently from you. If you are feeling emotionally overwhelmed, you may want to avoid reading their posts for a while, but other than that, leave it be and address your feelings."
Dr. Michaelis also suggests using social media as an opportunity to understand friends who think differently than you do. "Try to engage their friends who have a different view point than them in an open and generous manner to try to understand their point of view," Dr. Michaelis says. "If that doesn't work, use your feelings to help you accept that other people see the word differently than you do. Know that it doesn't make them a bad person, but that either because of differences in the way you think, or differences in social influences, you see the world along different dimensions, and a diversity of thoughts ultimately helps all of us."
And if all the heated political debates on social media are really frustrating you? "Sometimes taking a break from social media, unfollowing or restricting can help with political talk," Lisa Bahar, LMFT, LPCC, tells Bustle.
Because social media has become so interconnected with how we consume and share information, and about politics especially, it's safe to assume that, after the 2016 election, social media habits changed for millennial women. I asked 17 women what those changes were, and here's what they told me.
"I am a 27-year-old millennial woman who spends a decent amount of time on social media. It is also part of my job to spend time on social media, so I have feeds open for most of the day. I try to spend a lot [more] time on Facebook since the election. I have many conservative family members who often share fake news stories from bogus outlets because they cannot tell the difference. I spend a lot more time on Twitter because it's hilarious and spend most of the time on Instagram."
"My media and reading habits have changed extensively since the election. Not only have I become more aware of my own susceptibility to fake news and the echo chamber of political agreement I had created for myself prior to the election, but I have also become more tuned into differences between what various news outlets focus and report on.
I joined Twitter to connect to real-time journalism and opinion commentary. Since tweets have become much more relevant to our national discourse, I felt it was only appropriate to familiarize myself with the platform. I've joined numerous Facebook groups and started following my representatives at the local, state, and national levels on social media, too.
I also started listening to local talk radio. Since I can't be on Twitter and Facebook during my commute, talk radio keeps me up to date."
"I think social media is both a blessing and a curse, like any technology or innovation tends to be. It allows people who are physically distant and otherwise would never meet to find each other and connect. On the downside, that means white supremacists and other hate groups have been able to find like-minded people. However, social media also allows disadvantaged people, like women and people of color, to share their stories and experiences and realize they aren't isolated events. Social media facilitates incredible connection and insights, which I think and hope outweighs the fake news, trolling, and negative community building that it also allows."
"After the election, my posts have become more political since there are issues I feel strongly about such as climate change and women’s rights. I also value freedom, so the latest corruption and Russia-related news items are worrisome. However, it’s starting to become more aggressive in tone, so I’m trying to dial it back a bit since spreading anger isn’t really helping anyone.
It’s not really about me voicing my opinion so much as using it as a venting tool. Growing up in the south (and being more conservative) it’s heartbreaking to see people support party over country. Some people are so scared and uncertain (which is what authoritarians want) that they are willing to sacrifice human rights and freedom for safety. I just want people to wake up and see what’s really going on because a lot of it is not OK."
"What has changed most for me is reading a lot more articles my friends post on Facebook, Instagram, and Groupme. I know way more about the government now than I ever did since my last government class in high school, SMH. I haven't followed a politician yet, but I have joined meet-ups and Facebook groups that talk about the issues in my area."
"I, along with many others I know, used social media during the 2016 election to help spread awareness around key facets of each candidate's platform, as well as attempt to connect with those who were strongly supporting the candidate I opposed to try and get a better understanding."
"There isn’t a day that Trump does not dominate my Twitter feed — and it’s annoying AF. I feel like this is the only time post-election that talk about a president is so heavily present on Twitter and social media. Everyone has such a polar opinion on the topic and feel the need to CONSTANTLY talk about it. I understand 99.9 percent of the U.S. is team #dumptrump (myself included), but I don’t see why social media has become a place of political complaints because it isn’t going to solve anything. What happened to the cute kitten videos and focus on Chrissy Teigen’s hilarious tweets and celeb gossip? Rant over."
"Since the 2016 election I've used social media more as a tool for advocacy and less for recreational purposes. It's become more about connecting with people to keep current on news and not trends."
"Until the 2016 election, I'd actually been taking a multi-year social media break. I had deactivated my Facebook account and only occasionally used Twitter to look at cute dog pictures and laugh at parody accounts. But after the election, I had a radical realization: for the first time in my life, I wanted to get involved in politics and activism. What's more, I decided that I'd like to run for office someday (I mean, if Trump can do it, anyone can, right?), which meant that I had to stop being so detached from the online world, and especially from social media. So I reactivated my Facebook account and started sharing interesting news and analysis on Twitter. I'm still working on building my network and social media presence, and it's hard work. But I think it's a great outlet for starting to get involved in public life and making a difference."
"Since the election, I've probably followed more than 200 journalists and other sources of information that I deem credible on Twitter. I find that it's easier to digest really complex issues if you can read about them from an individual's perspective — that makes a huge difference. If I can label a journalist as reliable, then see where she stands on an issue, I can better form my own opinion. My activity on social media has definitely increased in recent months; it's an incredible resource for knowing what your peers think is most important at any given moment."
"I am a 31-year-old performance artist in NYC who voted for Trump. Social media was a very interesting thing in this election. Not only were there mass amounts of people complaining about Trump and spreading info and rumors at alarming rates, with alarming passion, but I found areas of social media that were pro-Trump, and I think it influenced the election a great deal. During the election I created alternate profiles specially for politics and memes. There's a whole culture on social media that was ignored by the campaigns, but we exist, and we turned the tide of the election."
"As a young millennial woman, my social media engagement with politics have changed dramatically post the 2016 election. Every time I post something I believe in, I'm looked at as a radical. When was it so radical to believe in human rights? With every post I make, I receive a comment. Calling me a victim, a snowflake, a violent progressive. I'm all for commenting, and I'm a liberal woman who believes that all ideas need to be heard, but I can't help but think in this case, the opinions are just unnecessary. It's a fight that can't be won, not if the goals of both contributors aren't even somewhat similar. My goal is to educate. I want people to hear why Democrats are so pissed. I want them to know why these Senate hearings are so publicized. I want them to know why the FBI releases info to the public before they give it to the government. A large portion of some of our highest officials are scared for the wellbeing of the leader of the free world, and so am I."
"I feel like post-election, my social media habits, especially on Facebook, have been more for sharing content that matters and contributing to conversations about deeper issues. On Facebook I've followed more news sites to stay informed (as well as Twitter) and shared more stories daily."
"With all the negativity on social media, I’ve made it a point to not add to it. As a creative, I want to allow people to experience inspiration, positivity, and fun when they come across my content. A quick mental break from all the news we’re bombarded with constantly it feels like."
"I'm the founder of Chicks'n'Politics (CNP) a social media network for millennial women of color working in politics. As the founder of CNP, I have seen a more vocal group of women express their approval and disapproval for the stories that we share that include black women and women of color working on both sides of the aisles. These women share their excitement for how other women are leading in their resistance through the comments and do the same for women who are working to assist the president in changing our communities. The amount of engagement our Instagram and Facebook page has received since election day has also spiked. Social media has been a quick and easy way to receive news, hot topics, and learn about opportunities to fight for issues they care about whether they have had a positive or negative impact since election day."
"Although I’ve always been politically engaged on Facebook and Twitter, after Trump won the electoral vote, I went into overdrive. I joined more groups, followed more journalists, and tripled the amount of news sources I followed in the past. I’ve been using social media to bond with like-minded people, create awareness, and get more involved, especially in regards to rallies and marches."
"I used to be on Facebook all the time, but honestly it's too depressing now. While I only have one or two Facebook friends who are vocal about being Trump supporters, the majority of my feed is just friends posting articles about the political climate. Even though we're like-minded, it can feel pretty bleak going on there now, so I've tried to stay off. I kinda miss everyone's vacation pictures and status updates about the subways being delayed."
Whether it's getting more involved on social media because of the election or taking a break from it all together, because OMG headache, there's no denying that social media habits have changed for many millennial women — and in many cases, that's a good thing.