Donald Trump and Joe Biden
UKRAINE – 2020/10/23: In this photo illustration the US President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden are seen during the final presidential debate displayed on a screen of a smartphone. (Photo Illustration by Pavlo Conchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

If the Presidential election has taught us anything, it’s that the United States is hardly united. But the divide you should really be worried about is the WhatsApp war of words currently taking place in your family group chat.

Nothing gets a WhatsApp thread humming quite like a major political event. Someone, usually a disgruntled dad, kicks the conversation off with a hot take which is followed by a chorus of dings that don’t stop until everyone hates each other.

And if like me, your wider family’s political views are a mixed bag, the chat can quickly become a breeding ground for anxiety and awkwardness.

Yesterday my Trump-loving father-in-law hammered the thread with “Make America Great Again!” declarations, accompanied by constant fire emojis. The bait was aimed at me, we don’t see eye-to-eye politically, but despite drafting many (many) replies, I held my tongue.

Then overnight as the landscape changed and Sleepy Joe woke up, I bit back. “Maybe try Ridin’ With Biden?” I replied. “Plenty of room on the bandwagon, Dad!” 

Before long we were locked in a lose-lose war of words that only resulted in me being yelled at by my wife.

Basically, what I’m saying is this: whatever happens in the near future, it pays to know how to diplomatically navigate the group chat in times of political turmoil. Otherwise, you run the risk of clashing with the ones you love, not to mention getting cut out of Secret Santa come Christmas Day.

Mute The Group

If in doubt, drown them out. Muting your notifications allows you to switch off and step away. If you feel like it, you can reply later on when you’re in the right frame of mind.

Establish Boundaries 

Let your nearest and dearest know that talking politics is causing you anxiety and you’d rather talk about something, anything else.

Boundary setting is important because it’s easy to get sucked into a vortex of back and forth arguments. Before you know it, it’s two o’clock in the morning and you’re sending QAnon theories to your mum.

Kill Them With Kindness 

Never underestimate the power of being fake-nice. A simple, “Great point! Will take it on board!” dulls any debate.

No one wants to argue with themselves, so by offering over-the-top enthusiasm (complete with lots of exclamation marks!) you’re diffusing potential conflict.

Call Out the Lurkers 

Every group chat features one lurker, the person who sees everything yet says nothing. A great way to change tact when the chat is getting tense is by focusing the spotlight on this silent fence sitter.

Toss Your Phone Into The Ocean And Move Cities

At this point, not a bad option.