There’s nothing like politics to divide a country, and this political season has been nothing if not divisive. It’s no wonder Facebook’s “unfriend” function has been getting a bit of a workout in recent months.
There are even widgets you can use online to find out if your friends have “liked” a candidate, so if you’re the type who disposes of people based on their preferred president, you can get it over with quickly.
I’m not one of those people.
I unfriend, sure. But it’s not because of who got your vote on November 8.
If push has come to shove, and I’ve decided it’s finally time to give you the heave ho, politics has nothing to do with it.
It’s the way you talk to people and about them.
It’s because you used cruel words or shared sexist and racist memes … or both.
It’s because, when someone mentions you might be wrong and presented you with solid facts (links to scientific or historical evidence), you responded not with facts of your own but nasty words and innuendo.
I can take facts. I don’t need to take attacks, not on Facebook, not in a space where I’m engaging with people for the sake of a little community.
I don’t unfriend people on Facebook because they disagree with me. If I did, life would be boring indeed (and frankly, I’d be very, very lonely).
We need people who think differently from us to challenge us and make us better. Sometimes they will present us with new knowledge that will broaden our horizons and make us think differently. Sometimes we’ll just agree to disagree. Hopefully even the latter makes us think.
Still, this election season has driven me to take extreme actions, not because of politics, but because of what they’ve brought out in people.
The people who have no qualms with sharing discriminatory photos and riling up hate. The people who use racial epithets and homo- and transphobic language.
People who do these sorts of things will tell you they say things other people are afraid to say, that they say “what they think.” (Sound familiar).
That’s a right largely protected by our first amendment. But while we are all guaranteed a right to free speech, nowhere in our Constitution does it say that you have the right to be a jerk and not be called to the mat for it.
So go ahead. Be rude and incite hate on Facebook. Don’t be surprised if your “friends” opt out.
But let’s be clear: It has nothing to do with politics.