Monday, October 06, 2014

How to lose Friends without getting upset about it

I’m still running away” by Flickr user Vincepal, used under a Creative CommonsAttribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 license.
I have noticed a shift in my Facebook news feed: there are now fewer ridiculous rants against Obama and pro-gun-rights posts, fewer Creationists going on with spurious proofs of their improvable ideas, and thankfully fewer racists with equally implausible, unsupportable ideas.

I wonder why

The only reason I can figure is that the creationists, gun advocates and racists who “friended” and followed me have since unfriended and unfollowed me. There probably is a way to see who has unfriended you, but I don’t bother with that. I’ll just go with noticing the absence of names and faces that I used to see quite regularly.

One is a Facebook Friend of a Friend who called me an “asshole” because I questioned his argument that Obama sucks. I asked for some solid examples of how Obama’s policies had made their lives worse in some concrete way.

Another right-winger dropped me after I questioned logical holes in his statements and arguments about gun rights and foreign policy. Maybe he just got tired of being shot down so many times. But even Snoopy gets back in the air after being shot down by the Red Baron.

I don’t see many creationists anymore, either. There’s one I haven’t seen after she asserted “it takes a lot more faith to believe in evolution than in creation.” I suggested she look up “faith” in a dictionary, and then open another book that’s not the bible.

(By the way, Oxford defines it as “firm belief, esp. without logical proof.”)

Okay, maybe my retort was kind of snarky, but it’s not insulting.

I miss those people—and not just because they're so easy

I think one of the purposes of Facebook was to engage in a healthy debate. Sure, it’s also a great way to catch up with old friends and far-flung family, to coordinate group activities and to share cool photographs, but I also enjoy respectful debates. I point out logical holes, question assumptions and conclusions, and have been questioned and corrected myself. I accepted corrections when I made errors, and I never sank to the level of insults. I never swore at people (okay, I used a few salty words to describe things and actions, but never the people I was arguing with).

For the most part, I did not get a lot of abuse. As I said, one person called me an “asshole” for questioning his argument about Obama. Another insulted me for arguing for higher corporate taxes and against the idea that corporations should be able to spend on political communications without limit. A number of people called me a “liberal” as if it were insulting. I told a few of them to look up the word, too, and once got insulted for explaining that the understanding of the word “liberal” in the US is different from its original political meaning, and that in Europe, neo-liberal is equivalent to neo-conservative in the US. I don’t understand why that was threatening or problematic, but it did bother some people.

But the people who were most committed to the right-wing side of many debates—guns, abortion, evolution, taxation, health care—have run away.

What are they afraid of?

I’m not going to shy away from expressing myself. I am a writer, after all. If someone disagrees with me, that’s fine. I encourage that.

Bringing poles closer

Image courtesy Dark Matters a Lot
We need to be able to discuss our differences respectfully. I don’t delude myself that I’ll ever change anyone’s deepest beliefs, but if we don’t share opposing ideas, we only increase the polarization that is already growing in the world. Extremism is growing on all sides of every debate, and we can see this with ISIS/ISIL, Christian/creationist groups, the Tea Party, resurgent communism in Russia. And that kind of extremism doesn’t make the world a better place.

So come back, right wing! Engage me. If you think I’m wrong, let me know. Just remember my rule of engagement: if you use personal insults, you lose.


  1. The fact is, Scott, people these days use Social Media to toot their horns, spout their views and just promote. No one really wants to engage or have any dissenting opinions, and that's so sad. Even on author sites, it's the "dump and run" approach. People will put their books up and leave, never scanning any other posts to engage with them. I say good riddance to the folks that really don't have your same beliefs and are antagonistic towards them. Life is too short to constantly have to see that. I've left some very good groups because the values of the group were completely against mine and I really just didn't like the overall karma.

  2. Anonymous1:32 PM

    I think we may be past civil debate. I think opinions have been formed and set in concrete on both sides. My philosophy is each person is entitled to their own perspective. Neither of us has to agree with the other.


    WordPress is denying I own my identity again.

  3. Conflict discussion are good until the fire gets too hot. Then, like always, somebody gets dirty and words are shared that should have gone unspoken/unwritten. Of course, like I was taught (and Elyse Salpeter loves this one) by my grandfather: If we all liked the same thing, we'd all be jumping grandma. Now, Scott, wrap your head around that thought. LOL. Good post.

  4. Anonymous5:16 PM

    I noticed that my friends have sort of cleaned themselves out of bigots and assholes too. I still get healthy debates once in a while too, but they're almost always with smart, respectful people now.

    It's nice.

  5. So many people use social media as their venting outlet - forgetting, as many do, real people with real opinions and feelings are on the other side. It comes from the myth of virtual reality, that social media and the internet is a virtual world, when it's not virtual, it's very real. Online abuse is very real and hurts many people, for example. We need to debunk that myth, it would make such a difference.

  6. Perhaps my momma just taught me good manners, but those kinds of blowhards give normal moderates/conservatives a bad name. I believe in God, own guns, and still love science and think that you are a pithy wordsmith.