The title of this piece is a bit misleading. I have in my time on social media unfriended one person. That is right, only one person. I will get back to this incident in a little bit. As a general rule, I do not unfriend people on social media. Almost every day, I turn on my Facebook and I see comments and posts which I disagree with. I have friends who post things which spit in the face of my general belief system, yet every day, I read their posts.
I do not hide peoples feeds. With the swipe of my mouse and the click of a finger, I could never be bothered by the feeds of people who I don’t agree with ever again. Yet I don’t make my life easier by simply making it so that I never see the opinions and ideas I don’t agree with.
I do not moderate as a general rule. The only time I ever step in on a feed or conversation is when the discussion has turned to personal attacks. Other than that, I do not moderate disagreements. When I was a child, my mom would often tell my sister and me, “He who seeks the war, shall not complain of the wounds.”
One might wonder why it is that I take such a hands off approach to my Facebook. Is it that I am apathetic? Is it that I find it to be too much trouble? No, it is not those things. It is that I believe whole heatedly in our First Amendment rights. I may not agree with what you have to say, but you have the right to say it.
So, why then did I unfriend that one person? It is a simple reason, he become flat out threatening. This was a person I had never met in my life but was associated with many people I know. I will not state his name, but we had a huge cross section of common friends from multiple spheres whom I trusted. When he asked to be a part of my Facebook feed, I figured I would give him a shot.
What changed was the way he interacted with people. At first he seemed a reasonable sort of fellow. He would post his opinions and thoughts and I was fine with that. What pushed his unfriending was that he told a book reviewer to kill herself and sent her a link to the best ways to commit suicide. This was his egregious error. Urging another to commit suicide, or threatening to kill them is simply unacceptable. Thus I banished him forever from my feed.
I have noticed an interesting trend in my feed over the last two years which I refer to as the unfriend post. It generally reads something like this, “I have unfriended X number of friends this week. I just couldn’t take their views on (fill in the blank) any longer.” The unfriending is, of course, the individual’s prerogative. You can unfriend anyone you like.
In this, the information age, we are becoming less and less informed. It is so simple to block out the things we do not agree with. To cut down our feeds to the point where we only see what we want is so simple. We can cut down the incoming information to a narrow view of what is really happening in the world, creating a sense of sameness. I refuse to do that to myself. It is my mission to take in as much information as possible and sift through it to create my own truth.
My list of Facebook friend’s consists of a myriad of different people from a variety of different backgrounds. I am not saying that I have covered every possible demographic, but I have a good representative group. This is the way I like it. If we are going to speak of diversity, shouldn’t we allow everyone in. The moment we start limiting the people involved in the conversation, we create an artificial diversity which is actually completely homogenous.
This is not to say that I have all the same people on my Facebook page as I had from the beginning. I have been unfriended on more than one occasion for saying things about my belief in universal health care or my desire for more strict gun control policy. My favorite ever unfriending was by a computer programer friend who disagreed with me on the proper use of the subjunctive. He was wrong, by the way. If a were a different person, I would have unfriended him in the first three minutes of the conversation, but I am not.
So, the next time you prepare yourself to click on the unfriend button, consider for a moment why you are getting ready to eliminate that person. Often I sit reading something I disagree with and wonder to myself, why I will not unfriend the posting person. Then I think about who they are and why I have them on me feed in the first place. I hope that I survive your unfriending spree, as you will likely never be unfriended by me.