estimated read time: 4 minutes
It’s February—still nine months away from Election Day—and I’ve already started unfollowing people on Facebook.
I should back up.
A few weeks ago, I had myself a bit of a moment and I unfriended more than 600 people on Facebook. Not unfollowed. Unfriended.
I’m not sure I can explain what happened, except to say that I was sitting at my dining room table—with my feet tucked under me, as I always do, which appears to be hastening the demise of my poor arthritic knees—browsing Facebook, thinking about all the things I should’ve been doing instead, and my brain started to go all buzzy on me because I was feeling a tiny bit overwhelmed, and before I knew it, I’d red-lined a whole bunch of people.
Earlier in the day, I’d been obsessing about minimalism, because I’m convinced that’s the solution to my perpetual overwhelmed-ness, and it dawned on me for the 1824th time that day (The Great Facebook Massacre of 2015) that clutter isn’t only about stuff. Mental clutter is a significant issue, too. And right then and there, I decided I need to eliminate some of that stuff.
(If you’re one of the people I unfriended, I am so, so sorry. You are not mental clutter or stuff. You’re awesome.)
Although you might assume otherwise (if you’re at all familiar with me or my blog), I did not unfriend only super-conservative, evangelical Christians. I didn’t unfriend people simply because they make racist or sexist comments, lost their minds over the SCOTUS’ same-sex marriage decision, love guns, are pro-death penalty and anti-immigration, and/or think Mr. Trump is going to “make America great again.”
In other words, I didn’t unfriend people only because they think differently than I do. I’m not at all interested in talking/writing in an echo chamber. Empathy requires that we identify with one another’s perspectives, and I can’t know said perspectives unless I’m listening. Plus, a lot of those folks with whom I disagree are super smart and incredibly interesting, and I’m not going to “other” them simply because we see the world differently.
So whom did I unfriend? Well, I started with people I don’t actually know. Like at all. Then I moved on to people I “know,” but only through social media. Next came all the people I’d never interacted with on Facebook. Then the people with whom I was barely acquainted in high school and haven’t talked to since. And then I lost my mind entirely and unfriended people just because.
I wasn’t mad at them. I wasn’t annoyed with them. (Okay, maybe one or two of them, but I swear it wasn’t you.) I wasn’t offended by them. I wasn’t anything at them. It’s just that once I started clearing away the mental clutter, I couldn’t stop.
(Again, you are not mental clutter. I’m just dumb sometimes.)
So now I’m sitting with 300ish Facebook friends, and some of them are posting infuriating things, and I don’t want to unfriend anyone else, because, Hello! That was mean (not purposefully). But OH MY GOSH my timeline is making me want to punch people in the face, and I’m not at all the punchy type. So I’m simply going to have to start unfollowing people until November. And maybe a little after.
- If you call people idiots, morons, or dumbshits for supporting Sanders or Cruz or whomever, I’m going to unfollow you.
- If you post memes of political candidates with skewed or misleading information, I’m going to unfollow you.
- If you liked or shared the video of Madeleine Albright announcing “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each another,” I will unfollow you.
- If you constantly talk about why the other political party is horrible rather than explaining, with some degree of civility, why you’re drawn to yours, I will unfollow you.
- If I post about why I’m intrigued by a particular candidate or their policies, I want to hear what you have to say about that—even if you offer reasons why I should reconsider my intrigue. But if you’re rude, arrogant, or immature about it, I will unfollow you.
- If you use hateful, dishonoring, disregarding, or generally nasty language to describe any political candidate, his or her supporters, or people who would be positively affected by that individual’s policies, I will unfollow you. (Note: If I could unfollow myself based on this particular Trump-related post, I would.)
- If you generalize a group of people based on the actions of one person, I will unfollow you.
Now, I realize you don’t care if I’m following you or not, and I’m okay with that. But you might care if other people are. Also, people are making a connection between who you say you are and how you behave on Facebook, and I hope you care about any inconsistencies they may find there.
To be perfectly clear: I’m not saying we can’t have healthy conversations about why her and not him and the other way around. I’m just saying we should behave like adults, cut the sarcasm (<—- me, too), and dispense with the name-calling. I’m going to assume you have some smart friends, and they’re no less smart because they disagree with your political or social ideology. And here’s a reality check: Most, if not all, of those presidential candidates are brilliant. Regardless of how much we disagree with them.
In short: I’m not an idiot. And neither are you.