It’s a term that has gotten to be used more and more loosely since the introduction of Facebook. When I look at my “friends” list on Facebook, I see that I have over 500 or so. These days, from what I understand, that’s low. It’s about to get lower.
As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, the election has thrown me for a loop. This, however, goes beyond that. Here’s the reality: in the last couple of years, getting onto Facebook has been less about fun and games and more about fights. It has, an overwhelming majority of time, been an experience that resulted in me walking away angry or making someone else angry.
Some “friend” that turns out to be.
I’ve long maintained the philosophy that I like having friends with differing opinions than mine, and while I’m not likely to change an original poster’s opinion on Facebook, it is possible that I might change an opinion of someone in the audience. This philosophy stems from the old days of online forums where, somehow, through some level of commonality, I would have discussions and/or arguments with people from all over the world, people I had, until that point, never met. My relationship with them was built upon nothing other than that space on the web.
I have tried, very unsuccessfully to carry that philosophy over to Facebook. The reality, however, is that (at least for me), it is based upon a false premise. The premise on Facebook is that you are connecting or reconnecting with people you’ve known, or with people who know people you’ve known (or still know). There is some sort of history OTHER than online life there. This means that, theoretically, there is more to the relationship than simple “conversation.”
Yesterday, while in the car, I got to thinking about this fact. I remembered an experience that occurred when we were living in Rhinelander several years ago. I was in the basement with a friend of mine; a friend who has quite a different political and life philosophy than mine. We were in a somewhat heated discussion about a fairly controversial political topic. I could tell that I was not getting through to him. He was mid-sentence when Jessica came down and got involved. She rarely gets involved in these discussions, but something he had said tripped a trigger with her. She presented several points that I had not. They were from a woman’s point of view; a viewpoint that she was far better suited to speak to in this case. When all was said and done, neither of us were angry and we parted friends. None of us had changed our opinions, but we had argued respectfully and respected the others’ viewpoints despite our disagreement.
Two days later, my friend came back to the house. He came over specifically to talk to Jessica and myself. He came over to let us know that while his opinion had not changed, he had been thinking about the points that Jessica had made. He stated that he had never considered those points of view and that, while his general operating philosophy was not going to change, it definitely gave him things to think about.
The reality is that, in life; in person, I’ve had a few similar experiences of varying degrees. But not a single one have I walked away from the person angry at them. Angry at the philosophy, maybe, but never at the person. We remained friends and had several other common interests that it did not define the relationship.
Facebook is different. As we all know, Facebook is a snapshot. It’s a snapshot of extremes. It either shows the best or the worst of a person, their life, their beliefs. It’s a stream of memes, 3 second-long, generally only slightly accurate statements, all designed to evoke some sort of emotional response. Every status update is created for an audience. When you are writing to an audience, you’re trying to evoke some sort of emotion. In short, it’s not 100% natural.
The same is especially true with online debate, and Facebook is no exception. If I were to be having a true one-on-one debate, it would be with one person. It would actually be a discussion, and not a debate. It’s two people trying to come to an accord of some sort. In all of my experience on Facebook, this has never been the case. And not once have I, on Facebook, ever had someone come back to me later and say, “hey, I’ve never considered that!” And, if I were to be completely honest, I’ve never done that in return. Instead, online debate, on Facebook, is more about posturing. Posturing for an audience, not about a real discussion between two people who supposedly care about each other.
This brings me to my point. I am tired of going on Facebook and being angry. I am tired of the only snapshot I’m seeing of some of my friends being a snapshot of their most angry selves. I’m tired of the snapshot I am presenting being the same. I’m tired of finding myself basing my opinion of that person solely on those snapshots. I’m ready to go back to Facebook being what *I* want it to be for me (My wall. My rules). For me, it’s about staying in touch with people I care about; people I’ve known and wish to share my life with. People who’s lives I am interested in. People who don’t live nearby. And, people who think like I do. Yes. I said it. People who think like I do.
When it comes to Facebook, I’m done with online discussions. And I’m done with the negativity. I’m done with the anger I feel when I go onto Facebook and I see someone so full of righteous indignation forgetting that there are people at the other end of what they post; people who are equally righteously indignate from the other side that it creates nothing but anger, hate and acrimony. I’ve tried hiding feeds. I’ve tried to back off myself. I’ve tried it all, and it doesn’t work.
So, because I care about you. Because there’s too much negativity in the world. And because I want our relationship to mean something. Because I want us to remain friends, but also because we disagree on some very key life philosophies, I need to “unfriend” you.
It is not because we are not friends. It is because we are. And I wish to keep it that way.
I hope you understand.