No politics at the dinner table – but what about social media?


As the dust settles on the 2015 General Election, and the first majority Conservative Government in 18 years takes the reins, there are still some questions surrounding the most hotly contested race for No. 10 we’ve seen for many years. How did the pollsters get it so wrong? What happened to the ‘social media’ election? Who will become Labour’s next leader and is ‘first past the post’ a bankrupt voting system?

All valid questions but the one that has created the most debate amongst the team is whether in today’s digital world, it is still rude to talk about who you voted for? As election fever gripped the office (I actually started to burn up at about 3 o’clock with excitement), discussions became louder and more intense as the day rolled on and the outcome remained uncertain. For some, it was the first time they could vote and naturally there was lots of talk about which party they should vote for, what policies and issues affect them most and all-important questions like, can you take a selfie from the polling booth or vote whilst drunk?!

I’m going to take you back to 1992. Sitting in the kitchen with my Mum watching the news on a very small portable TV. I have a vivid memory of John Mayor addressing the nation, the Conservatives had just won the election and he was Prime Minister. At eight years old, I didn’t know who he was (I hadn’t even discovered Take That then) but I can remember my mum making it very clear you did not talk about who you voted for. And so, a political geek was born…

A trusted source on British etiquette Debrett’s, offers some guidance around communicating and conversation techniques, and topics you should never talk about are ‘money, illness or death, religion and politics’ and ‘don’t talk shop to people other than colleagues.’

But in today’s digital world where people have a tendency to over share and everyone broadcasts their opinions and ideas to a global audience with words, images and videos, are these taboo topics still off limits?

In what was meant to be the ‘first social media election’ it is questionable whether the digital revolution ever really took off. Although, social media gave us #milifandom and Labour dominated the Twittersphere on election day, traditional newspapers continued to set the agenda for the daily broadcast of election news.

While the jury is out on the impact social media has had on the election, one thing is certain, more people were talking about the general election campaign than ever before – not surprising given that time spent online has doubled in the UK since 2005. In the week leading up to the election there were almost 500,000 uses of one hashtag alone – #GE2015. One tweeter even asked the party leaders to favourite his tweet – and the quickest got his vote, that would be @nick_clegg.

Politics brings out the passion in people and democracy means people can have their say, whether digitally or round the dinner table. If it gets people engaged and voting then that is a good thing in my book, but perhaps we need to bring in some of the thinking behind talking politics at the dinner table to social media. There are ways to talk about politics online without losing friends. So whatever the topic: think before you tweet, remember not everyone will share your views and above all else, be polite.