Undoubtedly, going to college amid one of the most critical political divides the United States has ever seen creates newfound stress within students. As they are about to return home for the holidays, many are preparing for the painful political conversations they might have with their family members, and the anticipation can be nerve-wracking.
The presidential race was tight; both sides of the political spectrum showed massive support for their candidates, resulting in the highest voter turnout in American history. This election has encouraged strong feelings in every generation, but this year's young voter turnout was truly outstanding.
Many UC students are preparing to have conversations with their families over the holidays they'd never had before this election.
Some students have decided that they won't speak on the election over holiday dinners solely because they are the only one in their family with their particular views and would feel outnumbered in a political conversation.
"I definitely think the election will be brought up at some holiday gatherings," said first-year student Kyli Master. "But I will most likely hold my tongue because it'll be me and my sister against the rest of our family and I just don't feel like having to deal with that."
For other students, however, this isn't the case. Social media has been a huge instigator for these difficult political conversations, and even before students return home, tension has already been created between families.
A second-year student, who wished to remain anonymous for her safety, said she has faced a struggling relationship with her mother this year because of their political beliefs.
"A couple months ago I made a Facebook post that just said, 'I promise Biden's policies are not as radical as you think they are,'" she said. "My mom commented that Biden believes in 'partial birth abortion' and that that seems pretty radical. This turned into me talking about how I'm pro-choice, other family members getting involved, my friends defending me, and ultimately my mom threatening to disown me and get me evicted from my apartment."
She says that she's been home since the situation occurred and that her mother has acted like everything is fine, but that they'd gone through a week where they didn't speak to each other, and her mother refused to apologize for her hurtful statements.
"I know that things will be different when the holidays come, and the rest of my family is with us," she said. "I know that tensions will be high this year, and my family won't be able to help but talk about COVID and the election. At this point, I don't feel like I belong in my own home, and I'd rather not do anything for the holidays at all."
This is the case for many students. Relationships have already been broken because of political discussion through social media, and it could be hard for them to mend.
Some families are simply keeping the rule "no politics at the dinner table" this year to avoid any tension it may bring up. Some families may be in agreement, but acknowledge that there is a harsh divide through the country right now. How it's disrupting relationships with loved ones is vital to understand what students are going through and where their mental space may be.
"At least with my family members, [we] will not be affected because we are on the same side," said second-year student Bailey Stinson. "But I know families who are no longer talking to one another because of their views. They will be forever affected."