Earlier today, my friend Tina Plantamura posted a Huffington Post article she wrote about defriending on Facebook. The article was supposed to be humorous, but quite a few people apparently didn't get the joke. The article caused me to reflect on my own friending/ defriending behaviors, which are a little bit unique.
Over the years, I've developed a Facebook policy that prevents me from defriending people. No matter what annoying, offensive, disturbing or boring stuff they post, I keep them around. It's worth noting: I treat Facebook sort of like I treat teaching. It's a stage. The role I assume isn't the person I really am, though my Facebook persona is made up of elements of my personality. Often, I post thoughts and opinions that are the polar opposite of what I really believe in order to stimulate discussion. That slight dissociation allows me to more easily carry out the "no defriending" policy. Here's five reasons why I developed the policy:
- It's a grand thought experiment that expands my horizons. This is the biggie. I have a lot of strong opinions, but I'm also open to points of view that contradict my opinions. That self-skepticism is basically a function of age. Over the years, I've went through a lot of phases ranging from ultra-conservative to crazy-liberal. The end result is the realization that the world is a continually-shifting collection of shades of gray. Absolutism, in any realm, is a ridiculous approach to life. Exposing myself to divergent opinions allows me to see things from other people's perspective and helps develop empathy. Being able to listen to their opinions is an excellent learning experience.
- Echo chambers are boring as shit. If I surrounded myself with folks that thought exactly like I do, Facebook would be incredibly lame. I already know how and why I think the way I think and spend plenty of time in my own head. Why the fuck would I want to spend even more time discussing the exact same crap?
- Trolling is fun. I know, I know. This isn't very open-minded of me, but trolling friends' status updates is a blast. It's sort of a douchey thing to do, but being douchey on occasion is good for the soul.
- Being offended by something is, in my world, a mortal sin. A few years ago, Shelly and I decided to start working toward becoming "offended-proof." It's really just a manifestation of the "zero fucks given" mentality. No matter what anyone says, the goal is to laugh it off. I cannot begin to describe how valuable this has been as a life-enhancer. Once we started that journey, I realized just how much our "I'm offended" culture traps us in a prison by letting other people's thoughts, ideas, behaviors, appearance, etc. affect us on a personal level. I take the right of free expression VERY seriously, and my right to express myself freely is entirely contingent on my willingness to grant the same right to everyone else. Playing the "I'm offended" card immediately gives everyone else the right to do the same, thus destroying my own right to free expression.
- The natural filtering mechanism automatically creates a really awesome tribe of open-minded people. While I do not defriend people, many defriend me. In fact, I lose about five friends per week. I never really paid attention to this until I started getting friend requests from people I assumed were already friends. Anyway, the people that stick around usually need to be relatively open-minded to tolerate the hyperbole and dumbassery that occurs on my wall. The resulting tribe is thus capable of discussing a huge range of topics and issues from all sorts of angles, which helps fuel items one, three, and four on the list.
There you have it- five reasons why I don't defriend people. Of course, those that know me know I'm usually a bit hypocritical. I have defriended people in the past, and I have hidden a small number of people's status updates. The people that were defriended (happened three times) all showed very obvious signs of mental illness and posed a real, significant threat to my family (yay psychology degree!) The "hidden" people (about five) all fall into the same category - all are "one-trick ponies" that only post about one topic usually pertaining to ridiculous conspiracy theories. I consider my inability to tolerate their rants as a personal weakness, and it is something I'm continuously trying to improve.
Could this policy be right for you? If I were you, I'd give it some consideration. It has made me a more open-minded, empathic person, and I suspect it could do the same for you.
Some questions to consider (feel free to leave answers in the comments section):
- What is your current "defriending criteria?"
- How do you handle posts that offend you?
- Has social media changed your opinion on any matter? If so, give the rest of us an example.
Like being offended? Want to get better at tolerating offensive shit? In a relationship with someone with a mismatched sex drive? Not in a relationship but want to do the next one better? Consider picking up my new sex and relationship book No-Bone Zone! It's currently on sale in Amazon's Kindle store for $2.99. The price will continue to increase all week, however, so act now!
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