Election Day has passed, so you can uproot campaign signs, peel off bumper stickers, watch the news for pundits pounding each other and — apparently — engage in Facebook flame wars and cut off childhood friends and classmates because they typed impassioned status messages.
Status messages you disagreed with, that is.
Facebook users unfriend, block or hide friends one-fifth of the time due to politics, according to a Pew Internet and American Life Project survey.
A statistic like that speaks volumes about this country’s political tension and underscores the hypocrisy of self-proclaimed tolerant citizens.
Is it very tolerant to sever ties with someone due to their stances on hot button social issues?
How “united” is this country, or our local community, if we can’t bear the mere sight of differing views — whether they’re Democratic or Republican, or deal with, either way, abortion, gay rights or gun laws. A sight, I might add, that we can easily scroll through and move past, in Facebook’s case.
What does it say about someone who freely gets on a far-reaching digital soapbox and spouts his or her own views willy-nilly, and expects dissenters to ignore the conversation — not weigh in? Someone who, in the worst-case scenario, bans different-minded friends from giving input.
Certainly, many Facebook friends aren’t our close friends at all; they’re former coworkers, friends of exes, high school or college classmates we never spoke to and even some strangers find a way in. However, I have friends whose extended family members and close friends have unfriended them — a symbolic, digital excommunication — based solely on political postings.
It might sound silly, but unfriending someone, especially in Facebook Land, is a big deal. Complex psychological issues — and, ironically, political consequences, if you’re networking — relate to rejection, of course, but we won’t get into that right now.
Unfriending someone over politics is just petty.
After all, who wants to live in an echo chamber? I’ve always actively sought out different opinions. I watch Fox News, MSNBC and CNN to get the whole story and hear interesting opinions from all sides. Reasonable people, whether they lean politically right or left of center, know that contributing to the proverbial marketplace of ideas, and allowing the free flow of information, regardless of its source, only helps things.
Isolation is dangerous because we understand people better when we understand the things that make each of us different. In turn, we have a better chance of getting along with them, despite their differences. That builds community.
Isn’t it funny how children sometimes know more than adults? They can give nicknames like “know it all” and “smarty pants” — or whatever the slang terms are these days — to those who, essentially, are close-minded.
If only their parents, who too quickly call different-minded people backward, pigs, Nazis or even Taliban members, would remember that they, too, are myopic and ultimately ignorant when they stick their heads in the sand.
Thomas Boni is the Editor of the Crestview News Bulletin. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @cnbeditor, or call 682-6524.
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