Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Facebook and Open Discourse

A while back, a friend of mined posed this question to his Facebook friends: Have you ever unfriended someone due solely to something(s) they posted? If so, why?

I answered that I had unfriended one person I only knew through Student Government due to the vulgar and misogynistic nature of his posts. But what surprised me? What other people answered.

One girl said she unfriended people if they were "boring." I sympathize with that (the other day one of my friends posted about how she had given her toddler just a little more cereal than usual but she ate it all and wasn't she such a good girl? You'd think the kid had invented a perpetual motion machine or something) but I don't understand removing them entirely from your network. Of course, I'm assuming these people are actually her friends so I'm wondering why you would cut off what is probably the only form of interaction with a person because everything they post doesn't entertain you.

And here's where I really start getting to the crux.

Another woman said she hid friends from view if they had different political views from her. That stopped me cold in my virtual tracks. I literally raised my hands and shouted "What?!" at my laptop. I'm fully aware that I'm more open-minded than most people, but I still can't believe someone would choose to isolate themselves in this way. This is a slap in the face of democracy and it's something I would expect only from cult members or extremists. I wanted to respond with so many snarky comments, but I don't know her so I held back - and am posting my response here instead.

Do people really do this? I don't know about y'all, but I welcome differing viewpoints. How else do you discover the difference between something you truly believe and something you were led to believe because you're lacking insight? And if you don't allow this difference of opinion in friends, what hope does that leave for intelligent political discourse between strangers and politicians? This is one of the things I think Facebook is good for - so long as both sides are open and peaceful (no name-calling). Maybe I'm overreacting, but this made me a little sick to my stomach. And it reminded me of this TED video that I hope everyone will watch.

(Now, it can be argued, and I know someone will, that maybe she only meant the type of people who are hateful and vulgar in the expression of their opinions. Like little wannabe pundits. But I'm pretty good at reading between the lines and I didn't get that feeling from her, so we're going to pretend this isn't the case.)

Anyway, I'm not really sure what the point of my post is. I just want to encourage everybody to be open-minded and to welcome thoughtful, peaceful discourse on all divisive matters - no matter what side of the spectrum you fall on. Because where the discourse ends, that's often where violence begins. And I think we've all seen enough of that lately.


  1. I have a number of friends who are much more conservative than I am (I am, after all, from South Dakota). I have never unfriended anyone due to political or religious difference. However, I totally hide the people whose political viewpoints are nothing but "I hate everything! Obama is a Muslim terrorist who will kill us all!"

    I am all about being exposed to different viewpoints, and have had some very nice, civil discussions (on FB and IRL) with people who have different leanings, but what's the point of reading someone who isn't interested in dialog?

    So - while I don't hide people who have different views, I totally hide the people who can talk about nothing else and who make me feel all shouty when I see their status updates (much like I hide the people who talk about nothing but football).

  2. I tend to get unfriended due to my religious views. A relative of my sisters spoke at my brother in laws funeral. She and her hubby are lovely people who I have nothing at all against - they are also on the far side of picture perfect bible thumpers. Now I love a good debate on most any view - I find if I listen to others, sometimes they say something worth hearing.
    One morning I found a rant against something that was being spoon fed to the media to create hatefilled comments exactly like those she was posting. I mentioned that no matter who they were, the propety ownership laws applied to them too. I also made mention that what she was upset about, was not the entire story and that things can sometimes be spun to anger people on purpose.
    For daring to take up for the empire of satan (lol) and not agreeing with her - I was without explaination or a moments thought - defriended. However being nosy - I fiddled around to see if it could be any sort of error - before judging her to be one of those I find to be rather lacking in understanding of her own religious instructions. Sure enough - I am deemed Lucifer incarnate - without possibility of redemption. Three days later she lectures all her minions on the need for perfect people to forgive others - she did not mention me this time - she was telling everyone else - how to do it. A few months pass - all the steam fell away from the big issue she screamed to heaven was the mark of Satan on earth -- but she did not mention it. It was different from what she wanted to believe - so it did not exist.
    I have never defriended anyone. I don't need to. I can accept they may be insane and it does not bother me. I have been defriended several times now. Once for taking up for a 75 year old woman being called a cheater on a game she did not play - she was a member of a site this person did not approve of because they did not bother to check any facts and just ran along with the angry mob screaming that they were losing computer blip critters to anyone who had pressed the like button - for any of the 137 games this site had information about. I don't abide people calling older people and children names I don't use in truck driver land. I will make them cry back - I am mean that way. (maybe its the evil one thing???)
    There are some people I would not mind defriending - not for posting kid blah - but for posting personal things I would really prefer not to know - grin - Ickhhhh! But I would not hurt someones feelings, just because they are dull, they must have intent to be cruel. (I can't say I feel like I am missing much - when it happens)

    I have been blogged down more lately and don't play the facebook thing as much - it is a little too time consuming - and eats my writing.

    I agree with you - dialog is not about right - but sharing. It is hard for me to see people who get such fury with every tiny thing. But, Drama Queens are basicly bored - because they are dull inside. They live to see the reaction of others - they have nothing to give - so they take instead. They create chaos - because they are unable to create any kindness. love or true beauty and they are terribly aware of their own failings. They suffer so everyone around them should too! That is my pound of flesh on the matter anyway.