Why does politics make people more social?

Today I was wondering why is it that posts like these:

Elicit more of a response than ones like this:

But then I saw this:

None of the popular statuses were questions, yet something prompted people to lift their heads above the parapet and comment more often than usual. The most obvious answer is that politics affects everyone so a larger number of people  feel that they can legitimately comment on it. Another consideration is that people feel more social in particular social ‘climates’  – whether off-line (e.g. elections) or online (e.g. forums) – and are prepared to act on this. Maybe there’s nothing at all special about politics and really this phenomenon is more a reflection of how little anyone cares about my blogging!

What ever the reason, one thing I have seen today is that – for better or for worse –

People love to argue.

Has the UK General election made you more vocal than usual? Either online or in real life?

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About jonathanrose

Raconteur. Intellectual. Showerman.
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14 Responses to Why does politics make people more social?

  1. Tom G says:

    I think politics does make people more vocal, particularly when we have such an important election with such an unpredictable result and so much at state. It certainly makes me more vocal a little more so online a lot more so in real life! Also Jonny, I am following your blog closely, but that doesn’t mean I will necessarily comment on your facebook link.

    Tom 🙂

  2. Tom Richards says:

    Hmm… good question. I don’t claim to be a bastion of vocality, political or otherwise, at the best of times but I think this year I have been especially unvocal during this election.

    This is partially because my perception of politics has changed over the past few years. I used to think it was simply a matter of ‘right’ parties and ‘wrong’ parties. I used to love having arguments with my Conservative-loving friend. It seemed evident to me that there was a single universally right view and a right party. I guess I am now aware that no party is perfect and can do everything on all the ‘right’ issues.

    I used to look at people who voted for certain parties as ‘wrong’ or ‘inferior’ people. This year I’ve been massively aware that I’m probably just as ‘wrong’ and ‘inferior’ in some of my assumptions about politics. And this has made me more silent than I would have been before…

    This was both the first general election I’ve voted in, and the first election I’ve voted in as a Christian. It’s been interesting seeing the divide between Christians who have voted based on specific issues of conscience (e.g. marriage, abortion, medical ethics) and religious liberty, and others who have voted based on social welfare (caring for widows and orphans). I’ve voted today and tried to strike a balance between these issues, but I am not certain that I was right. No party can perfectly represent my views.

    So I’ve kept a bit of a silence during this election. I can respect some of people’s reasons for voting for all of the major (and non-fascist) parties, and am not sure if my reasons are entirely more noble. I guess it comes down to everyone’s conscience.

    Of course, in the process of writing this I’m kind of proving myself wrong. I’m watching the election coverage whilst checking Facebook and am enjoying participating in election conversation. That said, none of it is especially political. It’s mostly about peripheral aspects of the BBC coverage. I wonder why this is. Maybe the spectacle of the election is more interesting than the potentially divisive politics?

  3. Adam says:

    The nature of politics encourages debate. Fascination with this current election came from the perceived idea that all three ‘main’ parties had a similar share of the vote, and particularly among students who were voting for the first time. Politics apparently affects our everyday lives (blar de blar), and the media have a big role in our general perception and interest in the election. They get scrutinised just as much as the parties sometimes.
    ps- Tom Richards makes a good point about Christian voters and the specific ‘issues’ they vote on. Although these issues are important to me, I’ve found myself also considering other factors that have been more heavily debated in the public domain.

    • jonathanrose says:

      “The nature of politics encourages debate”

      Very true. I wonder whether the up-coming World Cup will encourage the same level of debate in facebook statuses.

      One to watch.

  4. Chloe says:

    im incredibly vocal anyway. i love any chance to voice my opinion and i guess voting is actually an official recognition of what i think. i think you’re right – that because politics affects everyone, everyone has equal grounds for saying what they think. However, i have to confess that in real life political conversations, particularly with friends from home, i often keep my head down, as i think unfortunately, some are unable to see any other party’s point of view, or understand how anyone could vote for any party but their own – i think this can also change how people view each other, based on stereotpyed, outdated views of parties.
    BUT i am unable to remain silent when people say they’re not voting – we have an incredible privilege in being allowed a free, un-persecuted vote; women died so that i could vote today, and i think its essential that everybody take advantage of the chance to freely cast their vote.

  5. Emma says:

    Politics in my opinion is the one thing that we all secretly love. As we watch the country’s leaders make decisions that we’re not happy with, somehow we feel qualified to cast judgement, thinking that we could have done better.
    It’s impossible not to have a view on politics. Even those who insist that they really aren’t interested because “they all lie anyway” realise that their lives are severely affected by the decisions made on their behalf…and so as disinterested as people may seem, many are still pretty vocal even if just to express their own annoyance and dissatisfaction.
    Politics is perhaps a chance for many to work out where they fit in social circles. For some they have strong, rooted views that they are proud to declare. These views may be the result of an informed decision or simply jumping on the political bandwagon. As an informed voter and someone who takes a real interest in politics, I find it far too tempting not to be vocal, perhaps in an attempt to subtly convince others that my political views are correct (though I’m pretty certain only the nearest and dearest know how I voted), perhaps because who leads my country matters to me for very personal reasons.
    I’m not really sure I’ve actually answered your question, but my point is basically that people are more vocal and more vocal about politics because it’s important to their identities, their history and their future. Being gobby is at the very heart of the political spectrum. It is the gobby ones who get their views heard…and indeed the gobby ones who we elect. Perhaps all of these social facebookers like myself who can’t contain their excitement over an election will be the future of politics 😉

    • jonathanrose says:

      Emma, you more than answered my question! Thanks very much.

      I was especially struck when you said:

      “Politics is perhaps a chance for many to work out where they fit in social circles”

      The implication being that, more than not, diassociated/marginalised people construct their identities through political affiliation. As I said to Adam above, I’ll be interested to see if the World Cup creates the same amount of facebook traffic…

      Thanks again for you response – and keep on being “gobby” on the facebook scene 🙂

  6. Linesman says:

    We Brits just like a good moan, and a chance to knock other people down. Last night in my student house there were two Conservative, two Labour and a Lib Dem; and the vast majority of the comments being flung around were criticisms of the others for taking a particular view. If it wasn’t on policy, then the political parties themselves were attacked. It was argued that some did not vote Conservative as a result of inverted snobbery; you agree with ’em but didn’t vote for ’em ‘cos they’re posh boys. Alternatively, the returning salvo was that some voted for them because they were posh boys – members of the elite club.

    These particular elections have been particularly handy in this area because to the quick glance the three main parties can all look reasonably similar, or at least you may agree and disagree with each one in roughly equal measure. That’s always more fun for an argument. BNP-bashing is all very well, but it cannot sustain a night-long election marathon if everyone agrees that they’re really rather bad fellows. Or if everyone absolutely loves the fist-wielding ‘Land is Power’ Scot. But bring up the economy, when nobody is particularly sure of what they’re saying, but they know they disagree with everyone else, and suddenly the fun really starts.

    Politics just gives slagging others off a bit of legitimacy.

  7. Sir Robert Crowley KBE says:

    Elections and real political debates raise all sorts of interesting points. More about ourselves to our friends, loved ones and even our own individual minds than anything else. They show what we fear and what we try to embrace just by our putting an ‘X’ in a box on a slip of paper.
    Sometimes, i think that the ballots being secret are more to protect us from what we think of ourselves and what we want to guard from others than they are to ensure our privacy.

    It’s also (in my humble or not so humble opinion), a good thing that they stir up our interest so much. We should be interested in what happens around us and the World we live in. People should be prepared to make a difference. Even the most lazy and apathetic of us have opinions and care about some issue or another. There may not be any set of right or wrong ways to do things – but we as a public do provide the best ideas on what works and we can stop even the best-intentioned of politicians and leaders from creating major cock-ups that affect us all.

    “Chloe says:
    May 7, 2010 at 3:35 am
    im incredibly vocal anyway. i love any chance to voice my opinion…”
    – surely that is just symptomatic of being a woman and not of it being election time?
    (sorry, couldn’t resist)

    • jonathanrose says:

      Your Worthiness,

      Firstly, may I just begin by saying how honoured I am to have you comment on my humble blog.

      You raise several astute points however this one stands out for me:

      “They show what we fear and what we try to embrace just by our putting an ‘X’ in a box on a slip of paper”

      Absolutely spot on. However, do you feel when we discuss politics we are more inclined to talk negatively (i.e. about our fears) or in positives (what we embrace)? Would you agree that – especially in Britain – we moan rather than laud aspects our political culture?

      Yours deferentially,

      Jonny Rose, BA, (no).B.E.

  8. Vicki says:

    I agree! My facebook and twitter were crammed with arguments. People like to make their voice heard, and thats evident with this years election – more voting than ever before. Besides, arguing great fun when you have a hash tag :p

    • jonathanrose says:

      Vicki – I’m glad you’re a bit of a Twitter guru! A Twitter handle is something I’ve yet to get to grips with…

      What hashtag have you been using the most during the elections? Have you tried inventing/pioneering a #hashtag yourself?

      I bet you’ve read Scott Gould’s blog and he’s always bigging up hashtags:

      http://scottgould.me/a-hashtag-as-a-platform/

      Get back to me with your thoughts – it’d be great to hear from a twitter veteran!

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