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The pressure to take a stance on the Israel-Hamas war is all over the internet.

"Silence is violence," one post on Instagram reads. "If you haven't posted I see you," warned another. "Stand up for what you believe in … anything less is cowardly."

Infographics, calls to actions and petitions have filled social media feeds since Hamas militants crossed into Israel in October and murdered Jewish civilians — and Israel struck back with bombings in Gaza that killed Palestinian civilians. With more than 10,000 lives lost and a million people displaced, the least Americans can do is amplify what's going on, some posts urge.

But with the debate so fraught, many prolific posters are caught wondering what to do. Those who speak out in support of Israel may see their comment sections filled with Palestinian flag emojis or accusations of Islamophobia, and those who support Palestine may see blue and white heart emojis and comments accusing them of being antisemitic.

Some are staying quiet, fearing their choice of words — however well-intentioned — could mean doxing or retribution at work.

But some posters are not satisfied with the ability to express their own opinion and are now demanding that others speak out too, said Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center in Boston. The behavior is an outgrowth of the rise of partisanship and tribalism, reflected in how masks became signs of political affiliation during the pandemic, for example, Rutledge said.

"People are being encouraged to form these tribes again, which increases distrust and decreases the humanity," Rutledge said. "If you 'other' someone, if you say 'you are not my tribe,' you are no longer looking at them as a human being."

Online shaming

Minneapolis resident Asma Nizami has lost friends over her posts on X about the war. Some of the same people who stood by her in support of other social movements — including the national condemnation of police brutality following the 2020 murder of George Floyd — have expressed shock over her support for Palestine, she said.

But in recent days, Nizami lost contact with a friend in Gaza. The lack of support for her friends and fellow Muslims drove her to share, she said, even as she faces online abuse.

"I have friends there, and even if I didn't, it's in my faith to speak out when I see wrong," Nizami said. "These are people without weapons, these are people without these advanced technologies and I know because I'm talking to them."

Sydney Roberts of St. Paul said she sees people shaming others for not saying anything online about the war, instead of being open to conversations and educating others. One post thought to be in good faith could lead to an inbox full of upset messages, said Roberts, a florist who has shared a few Instagram stories about the war.

The shamers are "pointing … at other people around them for not doing as much as they're doing … I think it takes away the humanity of everything and we are really disconnected," Roberts said.

Americans often know very little about the history surrounding the long and complex conflict, she added.

"I think it needs to be within each person's right to say this is horrible, but I don't know enough to take a side. Or, I don't have enough information that I feel comfortable taking this side," Rutledge said.

High stakes

The desire to raise visibility for a cause on social media has grown with the internet, but the stakes are high surrounding this conflict — coming with the possibility of job loss or alienation from a community, said Gilbert Rodman, professor of communication studies at the University of Minnesota.

Across the country, employee speech about the war has spurred anger at work and school. Hearst Communications, which publishes popular magazines, asked its staff in November to report their co-workers' posts on the conflict, including those on personal accounts, according to the Washington Post.

Law students at Columbia, Harvard and other schools who voiced their support for Palestine had job offers rescinded by Davis Polk, one of the top U.S. law firms.

Posts and speech produce a tension "that is not new with social media, but social media heightens it and highlights it because it provides more avenues for people to be visible," Rodman said.

Some organizations, like the Society for Human Resources Management, have issued guidance for employers, noting that while they can often lawfully discipline or fire staff over social media postings, they shouldn't do it impulsively and should take time to thoroughly investigate what a post is saying.

Other controversial topics, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, had schisms that were easier to see because they aligned with pre-existing political divides, Rodman said.

"It feels like more of a betrayal when you find out that the person who you've been going to marches with ... is now suddenly on the 'wrong' side of this issue," Rodman said.

Lynn, who is Jewish and declined to share her last name fearing retribution at work, used a social media moniker on TikTok to talk about how plenty of Jews in the United States — while horrified by Hamas' attack — do not think Israel's actions are justified. There are fewer colleagues on the video-based app than other social media platforms, she said.

"I didn't really feel like putting that out there and getting in arguments. I'd rather put it out there where somebody is going to hear me ... versus somebody who has a hard-line opinion," Lynn said.

Speaking out in times of crisis is an important social media practice, said writer and artist Kyle "Guante" Tran Myhre,one of nearly 2,000 Minnesota artists who signed a letter calling for a ceasefire sent to the state's congressional delegation and the president. Tran Myhre has shared his recommended social justice reading lists on Instagram since 2020, but said reposting every TikTok video or X post comes with a danger of spreading misinformation. Instead, seek out and share information from trusted organizations, he said.

"I think social media sometimes encourages us to think only in terms of sharing our own hot takes, when it can be so much more effective to be a bullhorn for someone else's concrete call to action," said Tran Myhre, who recently wrote an article about how artists can speak out about the war for the Minnesota online publication Racket.

And just because someone is quieter online doesn't mean they're not discussing the conflict elsewhere.

Roberts said she will continue to have conversations about the war with friends offline.

"Just because someone isn't constantly posting on social media doesn't mean they don't care," Roberts said.