I have a confession to make. Social media exhausts me. I was an early adopter—I joined Facebook in 2007, without really thinking about the implications of this new technology. Really, I just wanted a place to play online Scrabble with my siblings and post pictures of my adorable progeny. But early on, I made a critical decision about “friending” that would prove to be surprisingly intuitive. I decided that—with very few exceptions—I would only friend people in this virtual space whom I actually knew and trusted in the real world.
Because you know what? I have enough drama in my real-world life. I don’t need Facebook drama.
When my blog about my son with mental illness went viral last year, I was especially glad I had made that decision. The Internet can be a decidedly unfriendly place. But my Facebook friends supported me, virtually and on ground, as my family struggled to find treatment for my son.
I’m extremely fortunate to have a diverse and thoughtful group of friends. Some of my friends are atheists, some are Mormons, some are Catholics, some are Unitarians, some wear colanders on their heads and pray to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Many are liberal Democrats. And many are stalwart Republicans. But the one characteristic I admire above all else in my friends is their kindness.
I occasionally post provocative things on my page, because I’ll admit it: I love a good debate! And my smart, informed friends are usually not shy about sharing their opinions. But the one thing that everyone seems to get is the unspoken Golden Rule of online discussions. We can criticize or disagree with anyone’s ideas. But we don’t attack people on my Facebook page.
What does a personal attack look like? Well, it often takes the form of a so-called “you statement,” in which someone feels the need to tell you all of the things that you are doing wrong, because hey! That kind of message is bound to get you to change, right?
Recently, someone who I truly believed was a longtime real friend sent me this “you statement” riddled message explaining his decision to “unfriend” me on Facebook.
I am also sorry for the bitterness you have for people. You told me once that you have not gone into the dark area of you. I am here to say that you are have gone there. Your constant attack on the Mormons church and the people, has proved this to me. You have become a person that I was 35 years ago. A person that I have fought to leave to in my past. You can justify your feelings and actions anyway and however you want. I know I did. However, I now choose how I feel and what I feel. But you are no better than the Mormons you criticize, make comments about and put down. You behave as smug and judgmental as those you are angry at. You have the right to say and to post anything you want, when you want and you want. As do I and anyone else. However, I do not support the spreading of hate. I will not listen to your hate, demeaning or attacking of anyone. Therefore, I will un friend you from my facebook. (sicut, you emphasis added)
The first thing I am going to say about this is, yep! It hurt! I trusted this person. I don’t really care that he unfriended me—that happens all the time. It’s the way he did it, lots of “you statements” and maximum drama. To me, it seems like he wanted to make sure I knew that it was all my fault.
At this point, we should all be reminded of Jessica Wakeman’s excellent blog post on Facebook unfriending netiquette:
“1. Disappear as subtly and quietly as possible. Don’t email the person to explain why you’re unfollowing. Don’t tweet or Facebook or write on Tumblr or post an interpretive dance on Vine about why you’re unfollowing. Don’t call the person up on the phone and verbally explain why you’re unfollowing. Why? Because assuming a person needs to be informed exactly why you’re unfriending them is self-absorbed and definitely begging for drama.”
Amen. To my “friend,” a) don’t let the virtual door hit you on the way out; and b) don’t expect to come back into my circle of real friends either.
And if you really want to stop the spreading of hate, my suggestion is to go for a random act of kindness rather than a targeted act of cruelty. Do what the woman in front of me at Dutch Bros did this morning—buy the person behind you a latte. That simple kindness from a total stranger moved me to tears. Oh, never mind! You’re Mormon, so you can’t buy coffee… (smiley face filled with hate).