Tuesday, October 20, 2015


One of my problems in life is that I like people a lot (although admittedly, I’m not always sure why).

It makes it hard for me to keep my resolution “thou shall not friend people you do not know well on Facebook.” You see, before I got a Facebook account, I made a resolution to friend only those folks to whom I was close to in real life. (I share A LOT about myself on Facebook, so the resolution made perfect sense.)

But as you can probably suspect, it hasn’t been working out that well.

I discovered, to my own surprise, that I was a huge patsy who couldn’t say no to a friend request, especially from a person I had to face later at school or at work. And I also couldn’t say no to the temptation to friend every interesting person whom I randomly met, even though I knew that the possibility that we would ever hang out again was very, very low.

And so the number of my Facebook friends grew. And so did my dilemma: When and under what circumstances to get rid of those Facebook “friends” whose opinions were irritating, dumb, or downright offensive?

You see, the reason why I’m pondering this is that I like to think of myself as an accepting and open-minded person, whose ego is strong enough to handle that sometimes I disagree with people. And I’m also the one who has been known to occasionally make fun of folks who are so easily offended that you hurt their feelings when you say as much as “hello”. As a result, I feel like a huge hypocrite every time I get mad about something people are posting to the point that I don’t want to call them friends anymore.

But – what if the stuff they are posting really is too much and contradicts everything you believe in? I already wrote in one of my early columns about a person I unfriended when he continued to post blatantly racist and anti-Muslim propaganda, some of which came from an author who said publicly that the only way to deal with (all) Muslims was to bomb them all, children included.

And for the record, I don’t feel at all bad about this one!

Conversely, I was unfriended by a former coworker and a (relatively) close friend who suddenly, after several years of friendship, realized that I was pro-choice – and that was it.

So I was on both sides of the barricade! 

But the reason why I’m writing this specific column is that a while ago I flipped out when I read a post from a former coworker, with whom I was never particularly close, but whom I admired because she was smart and beautiful and her Facebook posts read like poetry. She was also a conservative Christian. I never minded her sharing her thoughts and feelings about God, because her posts were so loving, uplifting, and positive that even as a non-Christian I simply had to appreciate them.

So imagine my surprise when I suddenly came across one that was downright nasty. I didn’t save or copy-and-paste it, so you only have my word for it, but trust me: It was NOT loving, uplifting, and positive at all! The main message boiled down to the statement that only people who believed in HER God had the right to call themselves spiritual, and everyone else who did so was deluded, wrong, and ridiculous. And apparently most ridiculous were those people who expressed their relationship with the divine by wearing “certain” clothes, listening to “certain” music, and burning incense.

You didn’t have to be a genius to figure out that she was targeting mainly people practicing New Age types of spirituality (although Hindus and Buddhists and such might have been a part of the mix as well; I’m not sure).  In any case, I took offense, because I do practice New Age spirituality and I didn’t see any reason why anyone should have the right to decide whether I could call myself spiritual or not. So I commented on her post about how disappointed I was that she turned out to be such a judgmental person, and unfriended her before she even had a chance to respond. 

Right or wrong?

I have been thinking about it ever since because I worry that by deleting her from my friends I became exactly the kind of person I don’t want to be – intolerant of different point of views. I do have to say in my defense  though that it wasn’t so much her point of view that made my skin crawl (I mean duh! She was a conservative evangelical Christian – OF COURSE she didn’t consider pagans her brothers in faith!); it was the insulting tone she used. I simply felt that if I wanted to be surrounded by judgmental assholes who think they have the right to decide for others what is the one and only “right” way to do things, I could have stayed in Czech Republic. So I snapped.

But, you know, something in me is still wondering whether I did the right thing!

And so I would like to ask you, my dear readers, what do YOU think about this and what is YOUR thin red line? What are you willing to tolerate from your friends on media and what would be too much? Have you ever felt bad about unfriending somebody? How does person manage to stay open-minded and accepting, but still fight oppressive viewpoints?

Maybe if I get some feedback, I will find some peace and start worrying about something else for a change J






Elisa said...

Great topic, my dear. I'll say a few things here. First of all, I am very careful about my privacy settings so that I can control what *others* see from *my* posts. I have "close friends", "friends", "Acquaintances", "School/Colleagues", and "Family". But that doesn't answer your question.

I have a few people on Facebook whose politics also disgust me. I have learned to take what they post with a grain of salt -- looking at it humorously. Comedy has always been my go-to defense mechanism, so it makes sense that I'd do that. One of those people is an uncle, who, for family-politics reason I *can't* unfriend.

In actuality, I think it's our duty to understand the rhetoric of the opposing side. For one thing, I *want* my views to be challenged. For another, it's good to know what we're up against so we can prepare our rebukes. (This is why I've be vomiting my way through the Rebuplican Primary Debates as well as the Democratic ones.)

Come to think of it, during the 2012 presidential election, I did unfriend the husband of a life long friend, because he was so hateful in his discussiong of Barack Obama. That said, I'd only met the husband 2 or 3 times, so he wasn't really a "friend" to begin with...

One time I did go up against family politics was when I changed my privacy settings so that my cousin couldn't see hardly anything. She'd been harassing me for almost a year after my grandmother died, and I didn't really feel comfortable having her know anything about my personal life. It took her 6 months to realize I'd done this, and she went on quite the terror when she figured it out.

I don't know if I've answered your question.

(And yes, I do remember that at first you wouldn't accept my friend request and told me it was because you didn't know me well enough yet. I remember thinking that was so cool of you.)

RoyO said...

I start with a simple view. If another person is open minded and respective then it doesn't matter how much our views differ -- let the discussions and debate begin. If, on the other hand, a person is not open minded or respectful then I consider their views to be extraneous -- engaging them is pointless.

RoyO said...

"respectful" not "respective"

Anonymous said...

I think there are a couple of problems here:
The first is the use of the word 'friend'. Granted, that's Facebook's word, but we've all agreed to its usage. To me, that word should be reserved for the (very) few people with whom you are closest in all, or nearly all, of the important facets of your life. Once you stop calling your coworker a 'friend' and merely think of them as a coworker or acquaintance, it becomes easier to disregard their asinine opinions or cut them from your life if they get real bad.

The second problem is tolerance. Stop it. Stop being tolerant of things with which you disagree. If you are, for example, a vegetarian, then argue (logically, not antagonistically) with meat eaters as to why they should stop eating meat. And let them argue with you about it. If you don't believe in God then argue (again, logically, not antagonistically) your position. Tolerance is too permissive. Legal issues aside, would you tolerate a group that practiced cannibalism? What about ritual human sacrifice? I would guess not. So why tolerate a 'Christian' who espouses vitriol toward non-Christians even though Christ Himself taught love and compassion?

Be open minded, be open to the notion that your ideas and beliefs and opinions can change as you grow and learn. But don't be tolerant of things with which you disagree. Disagree with them, respectfully. Defend your position, respectfully. Agree to disagree if need be. But don't just accept that someone can have a wildly different, opposing opinion from yours in the name of 'tolerance'. That weakens your position. If, for example, you can 'tolerate' meat eaters, then do you really think it's wrong for people to eat animals? Respectfully and intelligently defend your position. And if others can't treat you with that same respect, get rid of them. They have no place in your life.