If you’re tired of election season vitriol on social media, cable news, and at the office water cooler, a Virginia Tech professor has a solution.
Todd Schenk has declared the day after Election Day as National Frenemies Day, encouraging people of all political backgrounds to reconnect with those they may have “defriended” on social media during the campaign cycle.
Participants can use the hashtag #FrenemiesDay on Nov. 9 and visit frenemiesday.com to share how they are reconnecting with an old acquaintance, a neighbor down the street, or perhaps a family member they haven’t spoken to in awhile.
“Think of it as an opportunity to detox and rediscover each other’s humanity,” Schenk said. “A call to increase empathy and mutual understanding. This is not a call to avoid the issues that matter to us, but rather to respectfully discuss them with someone that we consider(ed) a friend, a family member, or a colleague that we like and/or have to work with, but that we know holds fundamentally different opinions than we do.”
Schenk provides tips on his website for how people with differences of opinion can engage in civil dialogue and increase genuine understanding.
He will also hold an #FrenemiesDay event on Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg, Virginia, campus to encourage students to participate.
“We need to find ways to empathize and understand each other, despite our differences, if we are going to solve the myriad of challenges we face. Instead of avoiding, we should think about how we can coexist.”
Schenk, an assistant professor in the Virginia Tech School of Public and International Affairs, recently tested the theory that people with opposing views could successfully engage and empathize with one another, despite differences of opinion.
In a workshop called The Frenemies Project, Schenk had students and other Virginia Tech affiliates with opposing views on the issue of immigration in the same room for a workshop. The project explored how facilitated dialogue among individuals that hold negative perceptions of, and would rarely interact with, each other can foster mutual understanding and respect, and increase social capital. Schenk and students involved found that the experience increased empathy and mutual understanding. While they still had different opinions, the humanization of participants made them feel more willing to find compromise.
Schenk is an assistant professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech. He has extensive research and consulting experience working on collaborative governance, and environmental policy and planning issues in North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
Download raw HD video of Schenk discussing social media use during the election season.
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