zen3Yes voter? No voter? Remain In, Brexit Out or shake-it-all-about political-party floater? Whatever your political persuasion we could surely all do with a happier, more egalitarian referendum this time around, on social media and beyond. To pre-cleanse your referenda muscles and make sure we all make it to the other side a little more intact than previously, just follow these four simple rules with built-in rewards for claiming back positive time and energy to make a great case for your cause.

1. Exempt yourself from discussing politics with masked twats on Twitter.

If someone’s unwilling to show anything traceable of their identity on social media I wager that same someone knows they’re speaking just a tad of shite. Otherwise, why hide? Mysterious avatars featuring weapons, black/red Playboy inspired colour schemes and Twitter handles like @darthbegone2 are basically, in my experience, klaxons for highlighting people who’d never say in public what they say when emboldened by online anonymity. Hit them hard with the block button and if you see them harassing anyone else, report them. Would you speak to a mask-wearer who approached you with aggression in a pub or any other social setting? No? Then you’re off the hook for engaging with that online too. Hurrah!

The breakdown: Time gained by following the rule: sixty-nine million hours per week.
Pros: no energy wasted on twats, possible reform of a twat forced to rethink their ways.
Cons: none

2. Exempt yourself from convincing anyone about what they should vote unless they flat out ask you what they should vote.

This is a major coup, time-wise. Chances are you have absolutely no responsibility to convince anyone about anything to do with their political identity. If that’s the case, you’re in the blissful position of being able to simply listen to other people and not have that hideously compelling feeling of wanting to hook them up to Dr Spock’s mindmeld machine for a bit of brain swappery. Post-listening, you can then state your view, all the better caveated with a phrase like, ‘in my opinion’ or, ‘in my experience’, which reminds everyone that you’re in fact not there to disrespect or behave as if you’re in all ways informed because – NEWSFLASH – NONE OF US ARE! Simultaneously, if the person you’re speaking to is blowing a gasket trying to change your political identity and clearly unfamiliar with an unevangelical path to The Garden of Understanding, you can simply smile enigmatically and go on your way. Know that smiling does not always equal endorsement and life never changed for the better because an irrational person demanded it.

The breakdown: Time gained by following the rule: forty-two full weekends and sixty-five canny lunch hours across a year.
Pros: facial flushing kept to an all time low, deodorants lasting longer, blood pressure flares averted and binge drinking much more likely to end in Abba than the big white telephone calling everyone to tell them they’re bastards.
Cons: none

3. Choose sources, like sauces, very wisely.

There’s nothing quite like the burn caused by the embarrassing heat from the light of being caught with a bad source. Also, getting vinegary ketchup on your chips is shite. So, attend to your sources, like your sauces, with great care. Keep news current and if you do share information from a few years or months ago state the time lapse and why the information’s still relevant. Keep yourself honest about what’s opinion, what’s fact and what biases different sources carry. If you’re a social media hound, pop your own echo chamber with the pins of feeds from at least two sources you disagree with but can concede are bringing information to the table which is well researched or brilliantly expressed. If print media’s your thing, buy a non-tabloid paper you dislike at least once a week. If nothing else, having this information helps develop empathy with other points of view and – #feelthelove – it’s from that kind of place progress and change come. People who feel heard are less likely to shout and more likely to reciprocate listening, rather than just waiting to speak – so hear them.

The breakdown: Time gained by following the rule: None. In fact, in the spirit of honesty we’re fostering here, let’s whip out the truth and admit there’s a deficit. Choosing good sources takes time, a lot of reading and referencing’s not a hobby that’s going to compete with cake-baking. Yet, choosing crap sources is fast, cheat-laden and dirty. Only one of those options contributes to better debate.

Pros: Skyrocketing credibility, integrity ratings at an all-time high and valid use of the emoji with the slick, freshly-painted fingernails totally authorised in every single digital communication.
Cons: none

4. Amplify voices struggling to be heard.

This one’s easy and, when you start it, it’s difficult to know how you ever lived without it. Look around you and listen – who’s that talking? Stats say it’s most likely an able-bodied straight white male who can pay his bills and has some nice things in life. Stats also say that women, people of colour, the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, people in poverty, refugees and immigrant workers don’t get heard very often at all but have critically relevant perspectives which should dictate huge swathes of our politics. Chances are you haven’t heard those second stats because some bloke mansplain-interrupted over the top of them and drowned out the point. Time to up the volume on some other stations.

The breakdown: Time gained by following the rule: At least ten hours a week. By demoting some of our opinions to make space for those with less privilege we can enjoy learning and observing how that learning changes what we thought we knew. This can be unsettling initially but is nowhere near as weird a trend as a nation who embraced having manky foot skin sucked off by tiny fish in shopping centres so I reckon we’ll get over the weirdness if we try.
Pros: Small talk and patter will be vastly improved, empathy will grow, gratitude for life will expand exponentially and a more caring next generation of humans will thrive. The stakes are really quite big on this one.
Cons: none