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Political chatter on social media is stressful and frustrating, new study finds

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With the majority of Americans discovering news through social media, a particular topic and point of discussion is causing much concern and frustration online. More than one-third of social media users are “worn out” by the amount of political content they encounter, claims a new survey courtesy of the Pew Research Center.

In regards to political debates, instead of providing an enlightening forum for debate, 59 percent of participants describe their social media interactions as “stressful and frustrating.”

Released on Tuesday, the report comes in the midst of a noisy election news cycle, with political chatter at its peak on social media. Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have also engaged users with live-streams of the debates and acted as forums from which questions were generated for the presidential candidates. These same sites are also encouraging political activity, with features that let you endorse candidates, and voter registration drives — in the hopes that they will result in increased user engagement.

However, the specter of online harassment and abuse continues to haunt services such as Twitter, and can be sparked by outspoken political sentiments. This is reflected in the study, with around half of social media users claiming political conversations online are angrier and less respectful than those in real life. The majority of the study’s participants (64 percent) say their online encounters with people on the opposite side of the political spectrum leave them feeling as if they have less in common than they thought.

This negative view of political content on social media is shared by people from across the political divide, and is almost identical for users who identified themselves as Democrats (38 percent) or Republican (37 percent).

Despite their frustrations regarding the tone of political conversations on social media, some users still believe these same platforms can encourage positive engagement with politics. Eight in 10 users said social media can help people get involved with political issues that matter to them. Additionally, a similar number feel that social media has helped bring new voices into the political discussion.

“Some politically active users enjoy the heated discussions and opportunities for engagement that this mix of social media and politics facilitates,” write lead researchers Maeve Duggan and Aaron Smith. “But a larger share expresses annoyance and aggravation at the tone and content of the political interactions they witness on these platforms.”

The report, titled “Political Environment on Social Media,” drew its data from 4,579 American adults, and was conducted from July 12 to August 8.

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