How often have you heard statements like this on Facebook?
“I unfollowed three nut cases on Twitter today.”
“I will unfriend anyone who posts about X on my wall.”
“If you post pictures of X on your wall, then I will unfriend you.”
(That last one is an exaggeration; you can’t use italics on Facebook.)
Now, there truly are some nut cases out there. When someone you don’t know is posting the crazy to your wall or messaging strangeness directly at you then unfriending or blocking might be your only rational response. I’ve not attracted any of that, blessedly. But today I want to talk about the other folks: the ones who aren’t obviously nuts but still keep posting and sharing drivel in your news stream.
If you’re a Facebook user, and you’re at all like me, you probably have a lot of Facebook friends from different eras and areas of your life: family, high school, college, co-workers, church or other organizations. Some of them you know quite well; with others the relationship is quite remote. And here’s the thing: many of them don’t think the way you do, and don’t believe the same things. And they post and share stuff that appeals to them but drives you nuts.
Opposing political memes are especially bad; you can’t convey any nuance in a sentence or two superimposed on a photo. These memes are often hyperbolic hogwash on the face of it, but refuting them in detail takes more work than any normal person wants to put into a Facebook comment. The political memes you like are generally just as bad, but get a pass because you’re in sympathy with them.
For “you”, read “you, me, and everybody else”.
There’s a meme going around these days that captures it pretty well: “My liberal friends keep posting about Bernie Sanders and my conservative friends keep posting about Donald Trump!” It’s frustrating and annoying to have all of this hogwash cluttering up my stream of news and cute dog pictures.Despite, that, though, that I try not to unfriend people over this kind of thing—that way lies the isolation of the echo chamber. Pauline Kael is often quoted as having said about Richard Nixon’s election, “How could he win? Nobody I know voted for him.” What she really said is less pithy but a little scarier:
I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.
“I can feel them.” “I can feel them.” The others, the strange ones, those outside my tribe, the Subhumans Who Are Capable Of Anything, the monsters Who Must Be Opposed. I don’t mean to say that Kael meant all that by her words; but it’s an attitude I see on Facebook all of the time, from both ends of the spectrum. You know: from the Libtards, the Republithugs, the Teabaggers, and on and on and on.
There’s only one way to successfully oppose this kind of nonsense—and that’s to remember that the folks posting or sharing it are people, are members of my community—to refuse to make them The Other, to refuse to cast them out into the Outer Darkness where They Will Probably Not Wail and Gnash Their Teeth But You Can Pretend That They Do. They aren’t monsters, they are men and women created in God’s image and seeking the good as they understand it. They are my neighbors, and God told me to love them as myself.
So I don’t plan to unfriend anybody this political season, even if it makes me gnash my own teeth a little.