Friday’s experimental “Get Unfriended Day” was a rousing success or failure depending on your point of view. No one unfriended me so that could be seen as a failure, however it could be a sign that facebookers are more open to civil discourse than previously believed. I certainly said many controversial things, from anti-government to anti-Family Guy. I tended to say something confrontational in my status updates and then stayed pretty out of it, letting all my facebook friends do the arguing. While many friends squawked and argued, it appeared that vitriolic arguments mellowed as they went on.
My future brother-in-law contended (and I paraphrase) that the kind of arguing that commenced could be fun but ultimately pointless, as decisions and beliefs aren’t swayed by facebook arguments. I certainly agree that no one is going to have a radical epiphany and change their social/political philosophy in the middle of an uneducated argument, but I could hardly call such an exercise pointless. It’s an exercise in knowing who your friends are; it’s a challenge to love and appreciate those with beliefs you might find reprehensible.
My beliefs have often left me feeling out of place, especially as they shift and change as I get older. For a long time I was very conservative and as I’ve gotten more liberal I’ve found that I haven’t gradually gotten more liberal on every issue, but instead I’ve gone very liberal on some and stayed very conservative on others. This can leave me feeling displaced and unconnected to any side (but also a little proud to not be too clearly affiliated with either bunch). I need to know that me changing doesn’t affect the friendships I have, because I am going to keep changing for the next 50 years. The task of staying friends (even if it’s only facebook friends) with people with radically different beliefs, morals and lifestyles is a real exercise in loving your neighbor.
The germ of the idea that turned into “Get Unfriended Day” began when I noticed that I was unfriended by a couple of people who at one point in my life actually were my friends (instead of just people I went to high school with but didn’t know well). I’m fairly confident that I did something to offend them right off my friends list, either a politically charged post they disagreed with or a status update with a vulgarity. Something that made them unwilling to be my “friend”. I guess friendship was a little more conditional on their part.
I know that I can be obnoxious and argumentative and that has put me at odds with many people in the past. One thing I can say to anybody out there that I’ve ever had an argument (or heated discussion) with: Just because we disagree doesn’t mean that I don’t like you.
To anyone who actually gets their feelings hurt in these pointless debates, please lighten up. Recognize that some very intelligent people will think your opinions are wrong, and some very smart people will think you’re right. That is the nature of discussion, and something you’ll have to get used to if you’d like to have conversations that consist of more than idle chatter about the weather. I actually can’t stand talking about the weather, the banality of the subject makes me feel socially awkward. I’d rather a stranger insult my beliefs than ask if it’s hot enough for me. At least then I could have the chance to actually get to know somebody, and perhaps develop a friendship that’s more interesting than a weather report.