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By MEGAN FINNERTY -- The Arizona Republic

It's been a few days. Heads are cooling. Arguments are blowing over. People are again posting pictures of their toddlers, manicures and lunches on social media.

But as easy as it was to issue a post-election Facebook mea culpa Wednesday morning, it can still be difficult to mend relationships in real life the next time you run into politically insistent friends.

But this kind of relationship repair is important, says social media expert Karen North.

No group keeps track of election-related Facebook unfriending, or real-life unfriending, but it occurred throughout the election cycle, said North, the director of University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism's program for online communities.

"People can be much more strident online because they're not seeing or hearing the social cues that they would receive if they were in person," she said.

"People like to say things to an audience and get a response, so people try to be a little more outrageous, a little more funny and a little more partisan because they believe they are creating entertainment content."

Perhaps 2010 was the first election in which a majority of voting-age people were active on social media. But 2012, with a bitterly fought campaign for the presidency on the line, Facebook, Twitter and countless other forums were filled with these divisive opinions.

So if you haven't already gone online and wished President Barack Obama good luck, and promised to move forward with a positive attitude, North said you should.

"We all want to make the world a better place, and our children to be happy... and you can just post that and move on," said North.

Nohl Rosen of north Phoenix said he's lost tangential friendships because of the election, but he's not worried about running into anyone who voted against his candidate.

"I supported Romney, and I was called a racist, uneducated and uninformed (on social media)..," said Rosen, who is a small business owner in his early 40s. "I probably won't be able to do anything about those relationships. I figure it's probably not worth the time.

"But my neighbor and I disagree, and we didn't name-call, we had a discussion. Am I going to stop talking to my neighbor? No, of course not. In the end, most people just move on."

Christopher Lembke of Mesa said he learned to watch his social-media manners by reading outrageous posts from acquaintances. He saw people threatening to unfriend even family members over political allegiances.

Lembke, 33, is gay and a Democrat, and has gay Republican friends, "people I see at bars, and stuff."

"In the past, I would call them traitors, or even Uncle Toms," he said.

"But now, we've become closer and better friends because I respected their beliefs in this election cycle. I stopped being a jerk, and I enjoy my friends who are Republicans a lot more."

As always, people have to decide what's more important: Their opinions or their friendships, said Zoe Hancock, a Phoenix-based expert in social and business protocol.

"If you get into a row with someone you really care about, there are several things you can do," Hancock said. "Send a hand-written note, preferably not email, saying you care about them, you want them in your life, saying let's agree to disagree, but let's move on."

North suggests looking to Mitt Romney's election-night phone call to President Obama as an example of how to elegantly begin to heal rifts. Romney wished the president good luck and then encouraged his followers to pray for Obama and his family.

"If you feel as though you've alienated friends and family, today is a good day to say, 'The election is over, and I remember that we all live together and are part of the same community and society.'"

And at your next party, if someone brings up a divisive issue, smile, nod and wait for an opportunity to change the subject, said Hancock.

"Sometimes a non sequitur can help a lot," Hancock said. "There's always something else to talk about.

"You don't want to be the person who ruins Thanksgiving. People don't forget that, either."

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