As politics have become more prominent parts of our lives over the years, political differences in interpersonal relationships have become far more pronounced and nearly impossible to ignore. Whereas in the recent past, political views may have taken a backseat to other things when building friendships, because politics can play such an integral part of […]
As politics have become more prominent parts of our lives over the years, political differences in interpersonal relationships have become far more pronounced and nearly impossible to ignore. Whereas in the recent past, political views may have taken a backseat to other things when building friendships, because politics can play such an integral part of our beliefs and values, it’s increasingly difficult for people to become friends with others who might have radically different values from them.
For a lot of American high schoolers, a focused political consciousness has only been gained within the past few years. The 2016 election served as somewhat of a flash point in the development of Gen Z’s value systems and marked the beginning of our generation’s involvement in and understanding of modern politics. The election also came at a time when a lot of us were moving into new parts of our lives as well. For many, the election closely coincided with graduating from middle school or some other major event.
As a result of developing a greater awareness about politics, the intersection between political values and the development of friendships has also been impacted. It might’ve been easy in the fairly recent past to ignore the politics of the people around us and continue living in blissful ignorance, but in today’s world of neverending instant communication and monumental political events taking place on a near-daily basis, it can be difficult to separate someone’s political views from who they are as a person.
Some might find it difficult to imagine choosing to end a friendship or relationship with someone over their political values, maybe even describing it as an instance of “cancel culture” run amok. But for others, one’s personal politics can serve as a barometer of more deeply-rooted aspects of someone’s character.
“I think that choosing to end a relationship over politics can sound a little bit extreme, but it also could be necessary sometimes if the differences are that big,” explains one anonymous junior.
But political differences don’t always lead to something as dramatic as breaking up a friendship. Some people are able to become closer in their friendships by having heated discussions over political differences because having those conversations can help people better understand each other, even if they may have massive differences in values and beliefs.
“I always try to talk with my friends about political differences we might have,” argues one senior. “Even if we end up not agreeing, I think it at least helps us understand other people’s perspectives more.”
What about someone makes them willing to end a relationship over political disconnect? For some, separating politics from one’s personal life is exceedingly easy and politics can serve as a fun sport or source of entertainment. But for others, the personal is political, and separating people’s politics from the way that they interact with the environment around them is virtually impossible.
“I have ended friendships over political differences before. Minor or even fairly big differences can be fine, but I also don’t wanna be friends with someone who doesn’t think I should have equal rights as them,” says another junior.
Some adopt a philosophy of arguing about politics to try to win the hearts and minds of the people around them. Others find the concept of debating over people’s very right to exist in comfort and security to be entirely farcical. Others might prefer to try leaving political differences outside of the purview of one’s friendships. Overall, it’s not too difficult to understand why someone wouldn’t want to be friends with someone who doesn’t believe in their right to exist in safety and security.
At the end of the day, it’s pretty clear that politics are playing a massive role in young people’s lives, a phenomenon that’s pretty difficult (and possibly unwise) to ignore. Regardless of how big of a role politics may play in our interpersonal relationships, the general increase in political interest among young people is palpable.