If You Don’t Like This Post, Unfriend Me Now

Ron Burgundy Dare

Every day lately, someone in my network of Facebook cronies posts a plea to be unfriended or threatens to unfriend their friends. “Unfriend me now!!!,” they beg, “if you support Drumpf.” “I’ll unfriend you if you even mention his name in my feed!” There’s even a way to find out who among your Facebook “friends” likes Drumpf, so you can unfriend friends more easily. I suspect it’s less scientifically determined than my personal research, though, since I can’t imagine that some of the friends they mention could possibly…oh, never mind.

Unfriend me now” if you’re: conservative, liberal, tall, short, if you like Drumpf, don’t like Drumpf, feel the Bern, love Hillary, are breathing, eat foie gras, are still pissed off Meryl didn’t get an Oscar for Ironweed, or think Little Big Town is hot. Some friends have managed to make this request in a philosophical and somewhat poetic way, like this chap. But what to do? Opinions differ. New York magazine published an online article with the headline “It’s Okay — Go Ahead and Unfriend Your Annoying Trump-Supporter Facebook Friend.” On the other hand, the progressive spiritual thought website Patheos suggests we do not unfriend Drumpf supporters, and instead engage with them to discover what they could possibly see in that moron (my words, not theirs).

But artists, journalists and showbiz folk are passionate people and the idea that we, too, could hit a “destroy” button without actually blowing up a country is very exciting. I’ve almost taken the bait several times.

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I’ve almost taken the bait several times.

Overall, social media usage is down. When I read this, I wondered if it has to do with the toxic political climate. While I’ve only unfriended one person who personally attacked me for no reason, I’ve taken the opportunity of the last few months as people hike their freak flags ever higher, to use the coward’s way out and simply unfollow people. I also started perusing my Facebook friends’ pages more thoroughly. Many of these “friends” I’ve never met, of course, and I’ve realized some of them are actually Drumpf supporters. How could this have happened? I try to keep my friends’ IQs above normal body temperature. In general the whole friending thing had gotten out of hand anyway, and I found I had unwisely friended people I knew nothing about, sometimes even people with whom I only had a few Facebook friends in common, as opposed to, say, 200. This led to a couple of abusive online relationships with — uh — friends, who would message me from somewhere overseas in the middle of the night, refer to me as “dear” and then tell me I was very “cheap” for not responding. I guess they really meant I am selfish for not responding at 3am, as opposed to shoddy, penny-pinching or inexpensive.

I also discovered that many of my Facebook friends were curmudgeons! I actually like curmudgeons on a limited basis, but when I saw that someone wrote that “Hamilton isn’t good musical theater because it’s hip-hop” and lamented “Where are the good old days?” — well, I just had to take some action. I doubt anyone who has seen the show could make that statement, and I was taught long ago never to talk about things I know nothing about. I saw Hamilton through the grace of a wonderful, actual flesh-and-blood friend. It’s beyond brilliant and every other complimentary thing the press says it is, so just shut up. By the way, a lot of people think only boomers and older folks still use Facebook. This is not true.

But I digress.

Including the aforementioned threats bombarding me on a daily basis, I’ve been dismayed to see the quality of political discourse deteriorate. And I suppose I’ve added to that by my sarcasm in this post. But there’s not one redeeming Drumpf quality by any decent American standard, and many in the Republican leadership have proved their morals are nonexistent by acknowledging Drumpf’s racism, and supporting his candidacy nonetheless.

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At times, I’ve wanted to completely leave Facebook for all the hysteria, so I decided to ask some of my “friends” if the political climate has affected their Facebook habits as well. Here are some representative responses:

NYC filmmaker:
“Though I’ve been politically active in years past, I am sitting this one out, particularly on FB. I have watched good friends come to blows (over Bernie and Hillary; don’t know any Trump supporters — or open Trump supporters, at any rate), but I just can’t take the vitriol and the same old talking points that do absolutely nothing to change anyone’s minds. It’s all made me very sad.”

CA animal rights activist, media producer:
“I love to debate and learn with folks who think differently then me. I have never blocked or unfriended anyone however quite a few have done so on their end, usually after calling me colorful names.”

NYC cabaret performer:
“I just scroll on by. I’m a big old leftie and haven’t noticed any Trumping in my feed, so that makes things pretty calm. The extreme Hillary/Bernie trashing I’m just blithely ignoring and figuring everyone will simmer down in a few days. I rarely unfriend anyone. I’ve unfollowed a few but that’s about it. ”

Bicoastal film editor:

I don’t feel better — I feel disappointed.

“I made a New Year’s resolution to not post anything political on FB, and I’ve stuck to it. I will ‘like’ and comment on political posts, but I’m not sharing or posting them on my own feed. I realized that FB just isn’t the place for a proper discussion (and I love political discussions, so it’s been tough!). You’re either spouting off in an echo chamber, to your like-minded friends, or getting into a wildly vacillating argument that you wouldn’t in real life. I’ve only unfriended two people, though I’ve been unfriended by a few as well. The first person I unfriended I feel badly about. Nice guy, but felt the need to comment on everything from his ultra-left viewpoint. The issue was he wasn’t open-minded at all, and despite evidence and good arguments, would still stick to his viewpoint. Very frustrating, as I try to be open to being wrong about things and happy to change my mind if presented with the same evidence and good arguments. The other person was someone I’ve known for a long time. I’ve always thought of him as a good friend. I never had an unkind word for him. I posted an article from the NY Times (not some random website) about a candidate’s suspicious financial history. He was incredibly insulting to me personally.”

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NYC actress and singer:
“Yes I have unfollowed, blocked or unfriended people due to the political climate. The aggressive campaigning of the Bernie people has made me question the sanity of my fellow democrats. The attacks within the party have gone too far — it’s time to move on and expend our energy defeating Dumbass Trump. Or heaven help us all. No I don’t feel better — I feel disappointed.”

NYC media producer:
“I have not blocked or unfriended anyone yet. I can’t take the hate either but I prefer to try to debate the issues with friends rather than cut off communication. I hope it is always possible to change minds through discussion! Ha!”

LA entertainment junkie:
“I have not unfriended anyone, but I have skipped people’s posts where the bile is just too much. I am a passionate person, but it can get tiring. My brother did unfriend my husband, though. He was feeling the Bern and couldn’t handle J’s support of Hillary.”

Missouri mother and former entertainment industry professional:
“I think I did hide one person from my view because he was so negative and had multiple comments that I found offensive. I don’t think he knows I did this, so there’ve been no negative results. I feel better though. He was so violently offensive. I use Facebook to keep in touch with friends, share experiences and to receive/share thought provoking articles or information.”

New Orleans musician and artist:
“Please refer to my post of 2013, a letter to the citizens of Prague from their mayor, Tomáš Hudeček, regarding the flood that had occurred the year before. The first politician who I perceive to be capable of such a thought will win my respect. Until then, not so much. With that said…while I have not unfriended anyone over political views, I have unfollowed many, many people. I don’t come to Facebook for news that is available from other sources. In order to be truly informed I believe you need to be willing to listen to opinions with which you disagree. Unfriending someone over a political disagreement is a bit of a childish reaction.

“I have unfollowed many, many people.”

So, to answer the second question, there have been no repercussions because I choose to be discreet in my postings and in my actions on Facebook. I have unfollowed a couple of friends so their posts don’t pop into my feed. I did this because I don’t want to be tempted to write on their walls, and in some cases am just tired of seeing the type of stuff they post. Most of this is with people who post things on the extreme right political spectrum. I’m sure some people have probably done the same to me.

But for the most part, I don’t block anyone, and with few exceptions I usually engage in almost anyone who posts anything in response to what I’ve posted on my wall. It’s not always easy, and I have to exert a lot of effort to be calm and reasonable in my responses at times. I also think subconsciously there are times that I post things to elicit a response from certain people. I am interested genuinely when people have opposing political views. I actually want to understand better why they believe what they believe and what their rationale was to get to that belief. Having these discussions have helped me understand better where my beliefs and convictions come from, and at times raise valid questions about them. Sometimes I’ll jump on to somebody else’s post to debate something. I try to do so without being accusatory or demeaning anyone for their beliefs, though I’m probably not always successful at this.”