Breaking news: Facebook and politics don't mix — and yes, there's a holy ghost here

Newspaper headline writers face a big challenge.

They must boil down a story — often a complicated one — into a few words in a tight space.

From personal experience, some of my least favorites to write are one-column, three-line headlines at, say, 36-point type. I didn't take out my pica pole (because I don't own one anymore) to measure the exact size of such a headline on the front page of today's Dallas Morning News, but I'm guessing it's in that ballpark.

I'm talking about the headline on the social media story at the bottom right:

The headline is:

don't mix

If you've ever been on Facebook, I know what you're thinking: That's not exactly breaking news. Except that it is.

The Morning News story reports on a new study — and actually, the headline writer does a nice job of nailing the key point:

WASHINGTON — In an election year with two candidates as polarizing as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, accusations are being hurled from both sides of the political spectrum — and often, by your Facebook friends.
According to a new Pew Research Center study, 83 percent of social media users say they try to ignore political posts from friends with whom they disagree.
But when they do jump into the fray, 60 percent of the users surveyed say they feel frustrated and stressed out by the arguments they have online, making them wonder if they have less in common with their friends than they realized.

This time last year, Beth Morley, 46, followed a variety of political news sources on her various social media accounts. But the political posts, and the arguments that followed, kept coming, and coming, and coming.

In September, she unsubscribed from all but a few.

My experience resonates with the Pew findings, although there's a potential third element to the story — in addition to Facebook and politics — that I think would be interesting for journalists to explore.

Yes, I am talking about religion. 

I see a holy ghost here in that so many of the Facebook discussions that I see jump the train tracks, crash over a cliff and explode into a gigantic fire contain a religious element — be it over how various parties protect (or not) the sanctity of life or whether "the lesser of two evils" is an appropriate voting approach for a person of faith. 

On a personal note as a Christian, I often find myself frustrated this election season with fellow believers who seem on Facebook to place so much of their hope in earthly politicians. But that's a debate for another day (and probably another website, since GetReligion focuses on journalism and media coverage).

The Dallas newspaper hints at a faith angle in one of the Facebook users it quotes but doesn't delve into that angle:

Social norms have not kept pace with the rapid spread of social media, [said Aaron Smith, one of the coauthors of the study].
That was a major issue for Morley, the woman who unsubscribed from most political feeds. Morley, a social media manager for several small businesses, home-schools her three children and spends much of her time with friends who she knows are more conservative than she is.
Morley, a self-described moderate, voted for Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida in the Republican primary but said she is voting for Hillary Clinton in the general election. Her friends from church and from the home schooling community say they can tell.
“I’m not nearly as conservative as the other people in this group, and now we’re all friends on Facebook, and that’s all come out,” Morley said.

What do you think, dear GetReligion readers? Anybody else see ghosts here? 

Please comment below or tweet us at @GetReligion.

Please respect our Commenting Policy