In Focus

From the war to Russell Brand, how the news fractures friendships forever

Vaccines. Israel and Palestine. Russell Brand. It’s a minefield out there. As a new poll suggests we’re less forgiving than ever when it comes to the opposing opinions of our loved ones, Olivia Petter asks whether a ‘live and let live’ approach to political differences is even possible any more

Sunday 22 October 2023 10:46 BST
<p>‘In 2023, there are countless social and political issues at our disposal. And they are tearing us apart’</p>

‘In 2023, there are countless social and political issues at our disposal. And they are tearing us apart’

Melissa*, 30, was in the middle of making dinner when she paused to take a quick look through Instagram and saw a post about the Israel-Hamas war from a colleague. “The wording felt insensitive,” she recalls, explaining how the post was an attempt to contextualise the Hamas attacks in Israel on 7 October. “Without having shared any sympathy for the Israelis whose family members had been killed, raped, or kidnapped, she just started immediately posting Palestinian flags, and trying to explain the history of the occupation. We’re close friends and often hang out outside of work; she knows I’m Jewish and have family in Israel.”

After seeing several posts like this, Melissa felt compelled to tell her colleague that they had upset her. “I tried to ask why she was talking about this without condemning what Hamas had done, explaining how that affected me, and it turned into a massive argument. She was lobbing all sorts of infographics at me and using really inflammatory language, saying there were terrorists on both sides. It’s really awkward in the office now: we just avoid each other.”

What happened to Melissa is not unusual. In fact, today, as our lives become increasingly politicised, and the corresponding discourse takes up more online space, society feels more polarised than ever before. For some, this is sparking a series of confrontational conversations among friends, revealing surprising viewpoints, while blindspots are exposed under the glaring light of day.

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