Decision 2016 was a tough one and not for the reasons you think. Sure, it was nerve-wracking watching a man with no prior political experience weasel his way into the country’s highest position. The months following his election win have been equally disturbing/infuriating/hysterical.
However, despite the natural queasiness that U.S. politics brings on, everyone we know has suddenly become a political columnist. The guy next door thinks he’s fucking Tom Brokaw and wants to chew your ear every time you go out to check the mail. That co-worker you already disliked thought it was a smart idea to bring Meet the Press to the water cooler.
But political fever isn’t a sickness that’s singling out annoying people and making them even more intolerable. It’s infecting the minds of people you actually like, too. And their rants are turning your Facebook timeline into something that more closely resembles that daily ticker thing on CNN’s homepage.
What’s even more shocking about all this is when someone, a person who was presumably cool enough to be called your friend, unmasks themselves as a nut. It’s not shocking to learn that someone is a Trump supporter. After all, the man did win the election (no small feat) and that takes the support of millions. Contrary to popular belief, not all liberals live in a Republican-free bubble. However, finding out that your high school buddy or your old boss supports Trump is the least of your worries. It’s the unmasking of their inner racist or inner homophobe or inner Charles Manson that makes things scary.
When someone you genuinely care for publishes some left field shit on their Facebook page, what do you do? Do you give the requisite eye roll and keep scrolling like you didn’t see it? Do you engage them in battle to let them know how much of a jackass they are? Do you unfriend them and just push their whole existence out of your digital life? Last year’s election, and the turbulent, theatric months proceeding, led many people to enact the last option. Facebook friends were being dropped like WikiLeaks data dumps. Many folks decided that their so-called friends had crossed the line and they weren’t having it. But for you, how do you know when someone in your network has crossed that line?
I would never quote the New York Post. The paper reads like a cross between a high school journalism project and Us Weekly. That being said, one must give credit where credit is due. Last October, Karol Markowicz wrote that Facebook isn’t for politics. And I couldn’t agree more. Sure, all those memes of Hillary sending “emails” on her Blackberry were funny. And Melania’s pussy bow blouse was a clever wardrobe nod to her husband’s “troubles”. But Facebook didn’t start out as a political forum and there’s really no need for it turn into one. Those 45-sentence essays that people are sharing would be better served on Medium or in a newspaper or anywhere else but Facebook.
For starters, people like me scroll right past posts that look longer than a paragraph. I read a couple books a month, take in dozens of articles a day and write plenty of my own work. Good for you if you want to turn your page into your own little private edition of the Times but I’m not here for it. I’ve already disqualified you before reading the first word.
But besides that, people who take part in the activity usually fall into one of three categories: they care so deeply about an issue that others’ thoughts don’t matter, they’re keeping their fingers crossed that they get into an online dispute or even worse, they’re assuming that everyone in their network shares the same views. The people who haven’t left out of sheer boredom are probably likely to leave because they never cared to know this much detail about your political views. Stumbling upon one of those lengthy posts from your friends is like walking in on your parents naked. There are just some things you don’t need to see.
However, if you’re one of those nice online friends, the type that likes and comments on everything, the kind that rubbernecks when there’s a gruesome accident on the highway, you’re likely to see something that disturbs you. That rocks you to your core.
After Election Day, Democratic women across the nation went on an unfriending spree. In a piece for the Chicago Tribune, it was reported that one Laura Fitch ditched her own brother and sister-in-law because their celebratory Trump posts were just too obnoxious. One Lauren Lee unfriended into the double digits because she was so sick of seeing Trump’s name used in a positive light. For these women, there wasn’t necessarily a smoking gun. The election just helped them realize they were fundamentally different than those Trump supporters. (However, something tells me it won’t be so easy for Miss Fitch to ditch her blood brother.)
Sometimes the content gets a little deeper than a simple “I heart Trump” post. Sometimes, one of your friends might warn you that it’s time to take action before your country becomes a Muslim-majority nation. Or they might think it’s cool to share a pic of an Obama dummy in a noose. In those cases, unfriend away. In those cases, we’re not talking about micro aggressions or fundamental differences. We’re talking about flat out racism and there’s no reason to stay connected if that’s the type of garbage your “friend” is sending out to the world.
It’s really quite tricky, this social media business. On one hand, we all know someone (or multiple people) we find annoying on social media. And we take different steps to mute their voices. Maybe a simple unfriending is enough. Or even just unfollowing someone. Perhaps there was enough vitriol to inspire some block and report action. Offensiveness is subjective and we all have our ways of dealing with it.
I don’t support removing someone from your network simply because they have different views. There’s a true danger involved in surrounding yourself with yes men. Hearing other perspectives is what enriches our understanding of the world around us. That being said, if someone’s different opinions are violent, disenfranchise an entire group of people or violate the unspoken rules of protecting mankind, there’s reason for alarm.
If you believe that Trump is doing a great job, good for you. I might slide his 39.8% approval rating in your DMs but I won’t try to silence you. However, if you join in a public conversation about how the gay agenda is ruining America (as one of my “friends” did), I will unfriend you. Besides the fact that you’re dumb enough to believe that, you’ve just exposed yourself as someone I can’t associate with online or anywhere else.
When the truth reveals itself, we must take action. A simple difference of opinion isn’t worth losing a friend. But a POV that could put your life at risk—that’s something worth getting pissed off about.