I have observed a behaviour on social media (specifically, on Facebook) that should be worrying us: the Unfriend Me Now call-out. Not only is it silly and impractical, it’s self-limiting and potentially dangerous, too.
Opinion homogeneity isn’t good.
Here’s how it usually happens, based on what I’ve observed on my own Facebook feed: Person A posts a passionate point of view, and calls-out those in his/her friends list to “unfriend me now” if they do not agree with said POV. The topic of passion, more often than not, is related in one way or another to a social justice issue (ex. LGBTQ+ concerns, women’s rights, animal cruelty, environment protection, or something else in that vein).
There is nothing wrong with a passionate statement on social media. I personally admire both the act and the conviction.
The problem begins when it turns into the rather ridiculous Unfriend Me Now call-out. Please hear me out.
First, let’s talk about why it’s a silly and impractical act. The people in my friends list (or followers on other platforms) have connected with me for one valid reason or another. We may have been schoolmates, ex-colleagues, or chance acquaintances. At one point in time, I saw some value in adding you to my social network (whether I am eventually correct or not is not the point).
If I have an opinion, and I happen to see/hear/know that someone in my friends list does not agree with that opinion, it is not their concern how I feel about that fact. They are not obliged to spend the energy or time to read my passionate outburst, click on my profile, and then click ‘unfriend Jason’. Why would they? They have not, I’d like to believe, purposely and proactively offended me; rather, I was offended by the fact that we have a difference in opinion.
And just to make it clear, I am not offended at the idea that many of my friends and I do not see eye to eye on numerous issues and topics.
Second, let’s talk about why it’s a self-limiting and a potentially dangerous mindset or attitude to have. Think about it: the Unfriend Me Now culture seems to assume that because of a disagreement in opinion, stance, or belief, there is no turning back. A person who has (had?) value to us is now irredeemable because we’ve learned they chose red when we chose blue. S/he is unforgivable and has no right to communicate or connect with us because s/he voted for ‘the wrong candidate’, or ‘chose a side’ (which, by the way, is an exercise of free will, free speech, and liberty of choice).
By refusing to stay connected to people who think, act, and behave differently from us, we risk surrounding ourselves completely with like-minded folks. Is that a bad thing? I personally believe so. Homogeneity in opinions is terrible for intelligent conversations, and may drive us to be more narrow-minded, not to mention severely limit our worldview.
Third and last, we need to examine why we feel a sense of extreme offense when someone has a different, or even opposing, opinion. At best, it’s a knee-jerk (and natural) reaction to having our realities jarred. At worst, it’s an active refusal to consider two opposing ideas in one’s mind. You tell me if the latter is an acceptable way to approach issues and topics in the 21st Century.
This Unfriend Me Now attitude drives a digital wedge between people, when an open conversation about why these differences in opinions exist could be a better step to take.
Make no mistake about it – I completely understand why Person A would want to not be Facebook friends with Person B, a supporter of a mass murderer, as an example. But it’s not Person B’s responsibility (or obligation) to sever this connection – it’s Person A’s. To assume otherwise is, in my opinion, self-righteous and arrogant.
If we cannot handle dissenting opinions on our social media feeds, we have bigger things to be worried about than asking for unfriends, if I’m being frank.
If you disagree with the thoughts in this article, please don’t Unfriend Me Now – let’s chat about it.
Featured image by @christnerfurt via Unsplash.