If you declare to a friend that you have to take a break from your friendship because you are getting to know them a little too well, then good luck and goodbye. But nowadays, the strategic use of the Facebook HIDE button can prevent it from going that far.
Of course, Facebook both causes and solves the problem. Never before have we had such access to the inner lives and habits of friends of ours. We know what they have for breakfast, when they have a headache, and how cute their children are. We also know way too much about their politics and which pundits they follow.
I have a thing about politics, or should I say against politics. It is clear to me that it brings out the very worst in people, regardless of their leanings, and I am way more of a people person than a political animal. I also have a thing about respect, which seems pretty scarce in this arena.
I became an independent in high school, first in the social realm, when I was overlooked by the sororities that granted social status; as was my best bud Leslie. Thinking ourselves bold and extremely funny, we made up sweatshirts that said GDI for God Damned Independents, a phrase we learned from a friend’s older sister who had been to college.
(I liked the feeling of being in that outsider space and so declined the invites that did come in at the next go-round. Besides, how could I conspire with a system that would hurt other girls as it had hurt me? Better to stand aside.)
Then came the turmoil of the seventies that seemed to divide us up not along social lines but generational and philosophical ones. Opposing war and sticking up against injustice and discrimination made the world look black and white, right and wrong. Now of course, I see far more shades of gray and can see what we overlooked in our fervor. The night that I spent in tears over the stroganoff at a relative’s house when our opposing views on Vietnam surfaced, convinced me to protect the border between opinion and relationship.
I thought that my generation would be the one to save the world from itself. Sadly, it appears that I was mistaken, as I look at the steaming pile of trouble our world has come to under our watch. I am very sorry about that, but feel that continuing to slice us up into vicious opposing camps is not going to bring a solution.
Using my Facebook-granted intimate access to my friends’ thinking on this, I can make some additional observations:
Just like road rage unleashes behaviors and language that people would never use face to face, the Internet allows the same when it comes to politics, not just between trolls but between friends.
Online, anyone who doesn’t agree is either stupid or evil, and an enemy.
Outrage and victimization are rampant on both sides.
People let their celebrity pundits think and speak for them without recognizing that these mouthpieces are going to the bank on their rants.
Speaking of rants, I’ll stop here. Because I don’t want to see or hear all of this chatter, let alone lose friends over it, I like to know that the HIDE button is ready for me to employ.
But like most people who sign up for assisted suicide where it is legal, I don’t always actually pull the trigger. It just helps to know that I can take a Politics Break in an otherwise perfectly satisfactory friendship and keep it going until this whole you-are-an-uneducated-blockhead-if-you-don’t-agree-with-me thing passes.
It is going to pass, right?
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