This came out of musings regarding a FB post bemoaning the use of the construction “If you don’t like my attitude about this, feel free to unfriend me” — something I’ve used a couple of times recently myself. (I lost exactly one friend over that, according to FB Purity.) This got me to thinking about the difference between real friends and Facebook (or social media in general) friends.
One of my best meatspace friends is a Bernie supporter. I can’t help it if he’s an idiot about that. We’ve been friends for four decades. We have much more in common than we do otherwise. So we get along and don’t talk politics. Much 🙂
My wife is a lifelong Democrat (but despises Hillary). I knew she was a Democrat (so are her parents) when I married her. But again, we don’t discuss politics…much. (On the other hand, it helps that she’s more of a Scoop Jackson Democrat, not a wild-eyed radical dirty hippie like so many on the left are anymore. She thought Occupy was stupid, too)
One of my fraternity brothers is not only a Democrat, he’s a union negotiator for the UAW. But again, we have more in common than we do otherwise. He holds political views that I disagree with…but we don’t discuss politics. Much 🙂
Note the common denominator — I know these people well. They are long-time friends and associates in real life. I would no more “unfriend” them in real life than I would cut off my trigger finger.
On the other hand, I associate on social media with any number of people I barely know, and have either never met in meatspace or with whom I have only extremely limited associations.* Some of those hold political views I find abhorrent. I’m sure they think the same of my political views. And the links with those people are often so tenuous that I honestly don’t care if they unfriend me for political reasons, or not.
Social media has been the catalyst for a lower and lower standard of social and political discourse over the past couple of election cycles. As I touched on, below, in Democracy usually fails, the real-time ability to comment on other people’s opinions has turned the mill run of us into a community of mean, sarcastic assholes when it comes to those opinions. The great Facebook Democracy of the Unwashed is driving our political conversation today, as it has for at least the last two elections. What is sad is that the monolithic move to social media has led to the retirement (or near retirement) of a number of sane, thoughtful bloggers — because nobody reads blogs anymore. That takes too long, when it’s easier to read pithy crap typed by your “friends” or view picture memes as if we had suddenly been reduced to a basic reading level where informed, thoughtful, and logical commentary is seemingly Sanskrit to the masses. (In fairness, most millenials are already at that level, thanks to our crap schools.)
So when someone says, “If you don’t like my opinions, unfriend me,” maybe we should take them at their word. It might make people spend a little more time thinking about what they say and write. And that could only be for the good.
* Many of them “handshake” Masons that I’ve met in real life maybe once, and en passant, or may not have ever met at all. I’m the international secretary-treasurer for a fair-sized Masonic organization with members all over the globe, so I get a lot of friend requests from people I know only because they send in a check once a year. But I also have a lot of “friends” for whom I can’t really find a connection. Naturally, if one of them starts spouting political crap that I’m diametrically opposed to, the likelihood is that I’m going to dump them.
Gun bloggers and Baen SF writers, in my view, are generally exempted from the “social media” category. I’ve drunk good beer with some of them (well, not the SF writers — yet). We get along.