Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

They post to their friends 'unfriend me now!'

I like Facebook more than I dislike it.I'd rather it not datamine, that its terms of service were not abhorrent and that it did not lose features I like as soon as I decide I like them. But it's a good way to keep up with people I would not keep up with otherwise.

Lately, I notice a lot of polarizing talk on my Facebook feed. I have friends who are left of me and friends who are right of me. I suppose I am somewhat left of center by US standards, though it's all definitional. But the odd thing about my Facebook friends is the abundance of posts drawing lines in the sand. My left- Labour friends hurl words of derision upon center-left Labour members. A woman who used to work with me posted about how she loved unfriending people who disagreed with her post praising Melania Trump. Several of my Facebook friends posted "if you are for Trump, unfriend me now" posts. Other friends post things along the line of "if you are for Hillary, raise your hand...then use it to slap yourself".

I feel a bit ambivalent all this. My friend who told of the joy of defriended dissenting views said something along the lines of how the best way to pick one's friends are by affinity of politics and religion. I read what she said, but my way of looking at things is different. While I favor civil rights and democratic institutions and kindness overall, I am not so ready to discard everyone I know who is wrong on something that matters. Yes, of course there are limits, and of course nobody wants to condone 1933-era fascism. But my vision of being tolerant of people means that I accept a lot of people who hold what I feel to be completely wrong beliefs and political views.

This won't stop me from voting for the side I vote for, attending the churches I attend, rejecting the dogma I reject, and embracing viewpoints that best recognize the dignity and worth of everyone. I may even get strident once in a while.

I value, though, my Torts I professor from law school, Phillip Oliver. Torts is the arena of civil wrongs, of lawsuits not based on contract but based on something committing a damaging act. Professor Oliver used to call upon a student, and ask that student to explain a position in the law. He would walk the student Socratically through the ramifications of the argument, with question after question. When a student had thoroughly explained a position, Professor Oliver would pause, then say "Now argue the other side".

I don't always practice the logical extensions of this post. I unfollow people on Twitter who tweet ethnic slurs, and would probably do so on Facebook if need be, even with a long-term acquaintance. On the other hand, sometimes I overlook a really wrong-headed post because I know its poster has a world-view constricted almost by upbringing. But I do sometimes unfollow on ideological grounds. I remember the one fellow on Twitter whom I suspected of retweeting idiotic tweets to expose the idiocy of those tweets--until I realized he was retweeting things that resonated with his beliefs.

So I won't set out here a consistent and concrete Theory of What to Tolerate and What to Unfriend. But I will say that on my left and on my right are lots of angry and dismissive folks, and it's a curious thing.

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