Online Friendships, Politics and Facebook UnfriendingJeannette Kaplun
My abuelita (grandma) in Chile always says never to discuss politics and religion in social gatherings. Not because those topics should not be addressed, but because some rational people become very irrational when it comes to voicing their beliefs. Some people are so set in their ways that they forget to respect others and are very intolerant of dissenting points of view.
She grew up in the 30’s and many can find her position quite old fashioned. It was a different world, after all. Being social meant being face-to-face, the gadgets that are a part of our everyday lives would have seemed out of a science fiction novel and people relied on the good old radio to tell them what was going on the world. Yes, it’s tempting to dismiss her traditions and views. But during an election year that has centered on very important and very heated issues, I sometimes wish more of us followed her advice.
In the age of social media, we now have online friends, virtual networks and even can hang out with others using a webcam. That does not mean that our relationships are any weaker. And judging by the heated discussions between many friends that I respect quite a lot, it would be great to have them listen to my abuelita. On any given day, Twitter and Facebook are full of political statements, comments and sometimes, insults. While I think having important issues discussed openly is a great thing, I have issues on how some are managing the discussion.
The new trend seems to be “unfriending” your Facebook friends after they share a different point of view from yours. In a few cases, it’s gotten pretty ugly. Status updates can get quite aggressive and some comments are just extremely rude and disrespectful. And yes, my friends are all older than 13 but sometimes you would think some of them are still in middle school.
It’s not that they just unfriend somebody. That is their prerogative. What bothers me is when they make a huge deal out of it. Status updates, tweets and even blog posts announcing what they are doing while even naming those who “offended” them seem a bit too extreme. Why not deal with that person directly? I mean, if you have been in contact with each other (you are “friends” on Facebook, after all), you should be able to reach out to them and work out your differences.
Respect, diversity and democracy
It’s painful to watch seemingly rational human beings become so intolerant. No matter where you stand, or which political party you feel closer to, the beauty of this country is that you have the freedom to express yourself. What many seem to forget is that you must use that right responsibly. Insulting others or even bullying them just because they don’t agree with you is plain wrong. We can all learn from diversity and different points of view.
We take for granted so many things in our country that we do not realize how lucky we are to be able to voice our opinions, to think differently, to criticize and elect our leaders. As somebody who grew up between countries (the US and Chile), between a democracy and a dictatorship, between freedom of expression and censorship, I constantly feel thankful for where my children were born and live in. But I do worry. I want them to learn that you can find common ground despite different perspectives and beliefs. That you can work together despite your differences. That no matter which political party we might identify with, that does not mean other points of view are unwelcome or must be silenced.
We still have many more months of political campaigns and propaganda ahead of us. I know where I stand on issues that for me are critical and in case you had doubts, nothing you say or post on Facebook or Twitter will change my mind. I form my own opinions.
So please take a look at the brilliant window display I found at Urban Outfitters and keep in mind that above all, we need to behave as rational human beings.
What do you think? Do friendship and politics really mix? Would you unfriend somebody on Facebook because they support a different political party or candidate?
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