“The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversations with the average voter.” Those were the words of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who, despite all of his success, also knew that talking about politics can be more difficult than being a politician.
If there’s one way to turn a friendly conversation into an embarrassingly loud yelling match, a casual get-together into a fight scene worthy of a reality show, a good friend into a mortal enemy, or a Twitter follower into someone on your blocked list, it’s by talking about politics.
There are so many ways to isolate others and start unnecessary fights about political issues, but where to begin? We’ve compiled the best ways to lose friends while talking about politics.
Bring up Divisive Political Issues at Otherwise Enjoyable Gatherings
Nothing ruins a pleasant family dinner like a heated argument with dad over health care reform. The scene will likely end with mom awkwardly trying to change the subject while the two of you have to be separated by Uncle Frank, who’s found himself on the receiving end of a fork-full of flung meatloaf.
When employing this tactic, make sure to bring up issues that are both nuanced and polarizing at places where it is completely inappropriate to have a shouting match. Suggestions include the bleachers of a Little League game, the post-church lobby or the uncomfortably close quarters of a car on a long drive.
Example: “Please pass the gravy, just like Hillary passed the buck on Benghazi.”
Passive-Aggressively Share Links on Social Media
If you write a Facebook post or Tweet that solely consists of the phrases “I’m just going to leave this here,” “Just saying…” or “Interesting…” along with a link to a story containing a salacious headline that confirms your own political opinions, you are likely doing a good job of isolating people who disagree with you.
Make sure to not actually say anything substantive yourself, instead, use passive-aggressive tactics like researchers on Shark Week use buckets of blood and fish guts: Just draw out the sharks and watch the feeding frenzy begin.
Example: “Well, what do you know?: ‘Report: Rick Perry Fails Second Grade Common Core Spelling Test.’”
Act Like You Are Far More Informed about an Issue than You Really Are
Sure, you may not know the details about the Iran nuclear deal, but blindly defending it based on a few talking points you heard on the radio on your commute to work will surely make you sound like the expert you fashion yourself to be.
When it comes to complex social issues or Congressional policies, as long as you have a vaguely general idea about the issue based on a 30-second soundbite you overheard at the gym, you are more than qualified to put some fancy-pants know-it-all co-worker of a differing opinion in their rightful place. After all, you heard part of a quote or something!
Example: “As I understand, Congress has now made it illegal to say ‘Merry Christmas’ in public places.”
Inadvertently Share “News” Stories that Are Actually Satire
The Internet is rife with “satirical” websites that post fake news stories in the hopes that unsuspecting users will make them viral. Some, like The Onion, are sharp and funny. Most, however, are intentionally outrageous and inflammatory. These are perfect for making yourself appear both gullible and overly combative.
Look, as someone discussing politics in a democracy, it’s not your job to fact-check the Internet. Just post things that underscore your own opinions and let the bookworms figure out if they’re “technically” true.
Example: “Donald Trump to Tax All Men’s Haircuts That Do Not Dramatically Swoop Over Forehead”
Invite Yourself into Political Discussion Threads with Total Strangers
Want to weird out people you don’t know? Jump into the comment thread on a political discussion with a bunch of your cousin’s college friends you’ve never met, but managed to stumble into on Facebook.
Just like in real life, people on social media can get very uncomfortable when complete strangers or long-lost fourth grade classmates insert themselves into conversations while making wild accusations about links to communism, political conspiracies and deeply held beliefs. It’s the perfect way to get blocked.
Example: “I’m not sure how this ended up in my feed, but I just want to let you all know that you are dead wrong and stupid. (I was roommates with one of your roommate’s old co-workers. Tell him I said hey!)”
Use Memes to Underscore Your Point
Want to oversimplify a complicated political issue and strip all nuance out of a thoughtful conversation? Distill it down to one sarcastic statement over top of an image of Willy Wonka giving a condescending look or Keanu Reeves appearing baffled.
If there’s one way to offer zero insight while making absolutely no effort at anything resembling two-way dialogue, it’s by posting a picture of that pig-tailed tween with braces holding Goosebumps books along with big white letters that say “Ermahgerd You Vroted Fr Briden.” That’ll show ‘em.
Example: Post an image of that dude from Lord of the Rings saying, “One Does Not Simply Sign Up Online for Obamacare.”
Be Easily Offended
Being thin-skinned is a good way to a start a beef where one doesn’t need to exist. After all, what friend group doesn’t want that one person who is a constant source of drama and bickering?
Getting mad over political differences lets people know you care more about being right than being a good friend. The best way to do this is to take someone’s individual position on a political issue—that in no way affects your day-to-day life—extremely personally. It’s even better if every time someone criticizes a candidate you plan on possibly voting for, you view it as criticism against yourself. It’s both irrational and ineffective: a perfect storm of friendship-ruining!
Example: Blocking someone on Twitter for suggesting we don’t need a wall between the U.S. and Canada.
Focus on a Single Issue
Instead of listening to your friend talk about the issue she is most passionate about, steamroll every conversation by bringing up the dangers of water fluoridation, the evils of the “big-guacamole” lobby or your deep disdain for the space program.
Everyone likes to be heard and have their opinions considered, so blocking them out with your singular passion for protecting endangered turtles will successfully make them feel like they are of little value to our democracy.
Example: “Imma let you finish, but Bill Clinton had the greatest scandal of all time!”
Define Everyone You Meet By Political Labels
Using broad labels and candidate party affiliations to separate your friends into ideological groups is a helpful way to figure out who you probably aren’t that good of friends with anyway, right?
Labels like “liberal,” “conservative” and “moderate” can really tell you everything you need to know about what someone believes—and whether they are secretly a freedom-hating communist. Totally rely on those labels to let you know who is worth unleashing your valuable rants on.
Example: I do not like Ralph Nader. Ralph Nader was in the Green Party. The Green Party supports clean energy, and so do you. I do not like you.
Be More Concerned with Dividing People than Unifying Them
You know who likes that one person who is always looking to stir up drama and cause an argument where there doesn’t need to be one? No one. OK, maybe reality TV show producers, but no one else.
Being intentionally divisive and dramatic is a great way to lose friends and maybe end up as the villain on an upcoming season of Big Brother.
Example: “I know we agree on most issues regarding faith, politics and social issues, but how dare you use that one hashtag I disagree with on Twitter!”
And probably the most important one:
Think the Work of Politicians Is More Important Than the Work of the Church
Perpetuating the idea that voting a particular way is the only way to make an impact will diminish how you view your role as part of the Church—and irritate your friends.
Example: “The only way to help the poor is to vote to raise taxes (but not on me, obviously).”
Jesse Carey is a mainstay on the weekly RELEVANT Podcast and member of RELEVANT's executive board. He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and two kids.