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Are you or someone you love a little extra on-edge these past few months? Seeing rabid donkeys and elephants in your nightmares? Finding yourself desperately googling obscure congresspeople in an effort to seem well-informed? And just how many convention speeches did you spill visible tears during? Have you hate-watched Fox News?

You probably have Election Sickness. You will have this disease for approximately the next 3 more months, unless you manage to rage yourself into a ball of ash prior to Election Day.

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This morning, I had a vicious debate with a Bernie-or-Bust-type ex-lover on Snapchat. Snapchat, people. Snapchat is for barfing rainbows and face-swapping with your boob. And now it has become a venue for political vitriol. Even those who typically showcase high levels of apathy (think John Mayer fans) are finding themselves frequently embroiled.

We are being ridiculous. Even economists suggest that President’s actual impact on the average US citizen (with a few notable exceptions) is “significantly overestimated.” People tend to become far more vocal about and vested in national elections than local elections — in part because they are so visible. Many suggest that local elections are actually far more important to our everyday lives. While the next President will make important decisions that affect all Americans, the economic and social impact of the President on each of our daily lives is likely somewhat smaller than we envision it in comparison to many of our other elected officials.

However, we know far better that the psychological impact of the President-Elect is GARGANTUAN. I personally have been gloating at my step-father for 8 years since Obama was elected. I can’t lose this superiority complex now! If our homie isn’t elected, we threaten to move to Canada. We can’t possibly imagine a life with the wrong leadership. In reality, however — we will survive. Most of us on this planet survived TWO generations of Texas Bushes (somebody please name a weed strain after this), for crying out loud. But Election Sickness makes fear loom large, and subsequently, indignancy becomes inflamed.

Here’s a bummer reminder for all of us self-righteous folk: We really are just sheeple. While people like to think that they vote in line with policies and ideology, in reality, randomized experiments have shown that we really just vote on party lines. Cohen and colleagues (2003) found that when messages were identical, people endorsed or rejected said policies based almost exclusively on what political party they aligned with. Cohen provided participants with a message about either a generous welfare policy or a stringent welfare policy. Without any other information, liberals preferred the generous policy and conservatives preferred the stringent policy. However, once Cohen aligned policies with a party, results became muddled. When the stringent policy was said to be a Democrat policy, it was preferred by liberals. When the generous policy was said to be a Republican policy, it was preferred by conservatives.

Yep. We just use our party lines as cues for our own ideology. In fact, the research shows that people who are most cognitively complex (i.e. more able to perceive nuances and subtle differences) tend to actually have more moderate ideologies — because they are able to process both sides of the coin.

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All of this means that really, we should just take our judgment down a notch. We don’t have all the information, and worse, we tend selectively pay attention to the information that fits with our own beliefs, versus information that challenges our beliefs (making us more polarized). As much as we value our own “side,” there are legitimate points to the other side too. Take an opportunity to read some of the other side’s statistics and arguments. It’s good for our synapses.

It remains difficult to decide how best to manage Election Sickness. ES is like addiction; we know it’s bad for us but it feels soooo good. We can try to suppress it, but most of us will fall right back off the wagon. I recognize that I cannot cure my Election Sickness, and I will continue to lose social media friends daily to my incessant posting of old photos of young Hillary and all-caps “YESSSSS” posts in response to each DNC speech. I hope that those who love me can continue to put up with me for just a little bit longer. And then, god willing, my acute ES will remain in remission for at least 4 more years.

Top photo: Donald Trump's portrait in period blood by artist Sarah Levy

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Melanie LaForce is the author of the funny-awesome book Corn-Fed: Cul-de-Sacs, Keg Stands, and Coming of Age in the Midwest. Find her zine at reclusebabe.com; on IG @reclusebabeofficial, and Twitter @recluse_babe.

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