Real Talk: Navigating Politics and Friendship

It’s no secret that the 2016 election was historically divisive and emotionally charged. The New York Times reported that 27% of Democrats and 36% of Republicans see the other party as a threat to the nation.

According to KQED News, an estimated 24 million people under 30 years of age voted in the 2016 election, so naturally, the nation’s tension can be felt in college campuses around the country, including Penn State.

In a time when politics are felt so passionately among many people, it can come as a shock to discover that a close friend favors the opposing side. Finding out that a best friend who has always been a supportive confidant has differing political views from you can rock even the most stable of friendships, but Valley knows how to guide you to safety.

Instead of allowing politics to make you question everything you know to be true about your friend, Digital and Print Journalism major Katerina Procyk suggests becoming informed about the other side.

“If you’re conservative, consume liberal news; if you’re liberal, consume conservative news,” says Procyk. “Better yet, read unbiased reporting. It’ll give you a fair depiction of each party’s position.”

Procyk went on to advise having an honest conversation to bridge the political gap.

“Ask your friends why they feel this way,” she says, “You may be surprised to find that their criticisms are valid. Opening dialogue is incredibly important for moving our country forward.”

Procyk insists there is a way to maintain friendships with people who have different political views while still holding true to your beliefs.

“I’m not willing to end a friendship over a disagreement about politics,” says Procyk, “Although, I will not tolerate views which support racial, homophobic, Islamophobic, anti-semitic or sexist factions. I think it’s important to be partisan and loyal to one’s party, but when it starts hurting a person’s freedoms, that’s where I draw the line.”

Procyk cites education as the key to working through political differences with friends. Finding facts is no easy feat in a world of sensationalized fake news, but Procyk suggests that filtering through the clickbait is worth the hassle because it allows for a “civil, open and fact-driven dialogue.”

Like it or not, the answer to this country’s division lies in those uncomfortable conversations. People who want to make an impact can’t keep fighting separate battles. Through communicating empathetically and respectfully, yet with fierce determination, people will begin to uncover common ground.

Procyk explained, “At the end of the day, we both want the best for our country. Whether you’re right or left or middle, we have a common place–a passion for our country.”