If you’re a responsible person, you either voted in advance or braved lines (and COVID) to vote today. And that’s it. If you’re not planning to participate in any protests or help out with the political process in any other way, that’s totally fine. You’ve done your civic duty, and now it’s time to take a digital political vacation.
I’m not suggesting you should turn off your political switch entirely. There are very real problems in America’s crumbling systems and fixing them will require all of us to fight for a better tomorrow. But maybe literally tomorrow isn’t that time. We’ve all been through a lot, and anxiety is a real thing. Just as you’d take a break after a stressful quarter at work, so should you take some time away from the stress of politics across your favorite digital gathering grounds.
Ditching politics on Twitter
I’ve always been a fan of Twitter’s “Lists” feature, and it will be a great help to you if you want to keep up with a few important people or accounts while letting everyone else wade through political minefields online. Add your closest friends and favorite apolitical and/or silly accounts to a list, and just scan that instead of Twitter’s politically drenched homepage until you’re ready for the full firehose again.
That, or use Twitter’s ever-handy “muted words” feature to hide political content for the time being. Pick words and phrases you don’t want to see, and tweets containing them will be hidden for whatever time period you select: forever, 30 days, 7 days, or 24 hours. You’ll have to set this up for each word or phrase, but surely you can think of some great catch-alls—”politics,” “election,” “Trump,” “Biden,” “MAGA,” “Kanye,” etc.
Purging politics from Facebook
This one’s easy. Use Facebook’s ever-handy “Snooze” tool to mute your politically minded friends for 30 days. That should be enough to give yourself a break, but if you need more time, you can always manually unfollow them—just remember to add them back at some future point (via the drop-down arrow in the upper-right corner of Facebook’s website > Settings & Privacy > News Feed Preferences > Reconnect).
Now might be a great time to go through all the different pages or groups you follow and prune your involvement a bit, if you’re feeling politically saturated. And there’s always good ol’ Social Fixer if you’d rather use a browser extension to manage politics in your feed instead of removing any connections.
And, yes, we know: You could also delete Facebook or take a temporary time-out by deactivating your account.
Free yourself from politics on Instagram
You can block words from appearing in comments to your Instagram posts, but you can’t simply block hashtags’ worth of content from appearing on the service. Your best bet for staying sane on Instagram is to go through the various accounts you follow and remove those who frustrate you with their content—whatever that may look like.
Removing political YouTube recommendations
When a video or a channel is recommended to you, you can always use YouTube’s built-in controls to indicate that you aren’t interested in that particular content. Or you can take it one step higher and ask YouTube not to show you recommendations from that channel anymore.
Avoiding politics in all your other apps
Consider limiting all the various ways apps can bother you while you take a small digital detox. I’m not saying you should delete every news app on your phone. Instead, maybe let only one single app push breaking updates to your device’s notifications.
There will be lots of politically minded breaking news to hear about over the next month or so. Tame your notifications or disable them entirely if you’d rather be the one to decide when you’re ready to seek out news about what’s going on. Spare yourself the anxiety of getting 20 notifications at once every time there’s a new twist in the unfolding story of the 2020 election.
Silence messages from your annoying friends and family
The latest versions of iOS and Android pack in plenty of tools you can use to keep yourself sane if you’re stuck in a political text thread with your family or friends. And I’ll also throw in this one for iOS users: You can turn off notifications for mentions of your name, too, in case your friends or family members are pestering you about politics directly (or want to know why you aren’t responding to their messages).
Consider turning off chat in your games (or ditching the multiplayer component)
Now is a great time to take a look at your growing archive of “games I swear I’ll finish one day” and, you know, finish them—or start them. I’ve been itching to do another old-school run in Baldur’s Gate II, but I’ve been swayed by the need to get my World of Warcraft character geared up for the upcoming Shadowlands expansion.
The problem? The primary chat channels in my MMORPG of choice are full of political spam. I log in and get blasted with everything: people attempting to have reasonable discourse that quickly turns into fighting, trolls firing off crappy catchphrases over and over, various promises of what one party’s candidate is going to do to infringe the rights of everyone else, and dumb profanity-laced political screeds.
My options are to either turn chat off and remove a big social component from a game that’s designed around… being social …or I can switch to a game that doesn’t require me to interact with anyone aside from the ideologically neutral computer. I’ll probably keep on hacking my way through World of Warcraft for a bit, but I’m definitely more eager than ever to boot up other single-player titles in my queue. Why suffer trolls over voice chat or keyboard-mashing political mavens if you don’t have to?
(I can only imagine how bad this must be in games that already feature trolling as a regular feature—you poor Call of Duty players must really be enjoying these wild times.)