I love the internet. I’m fascinated at the new ways to communicate we’ve created, and I love the new forms: emojis, tweets, etc, that have evolved in these new genres.
But I don’t love the unfriending, the unfollowing, the blocking, the snubbing. I don’t mind how they help create a positive space for people, and tools against bullying and harassment, but I do mind how quickly, and thoroughly, they can cut someone out of your life. Someone doesn’t like your political post? Suddenly, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been friends, how many times you’ve exchanged cards or stories of your lives, how much you have in common: that one thing and you’re gone. They hit that unfollow button, and you have POOF disappeared from their world. You no longer exist to them.
It’s like that stupid bully game people played in second grade, where you pretended that you didn’t hear or see a member of your class. They’re invisible as a form of punishment. But when you are a kid playing at that, you still see the person, you still see the hurt. You want to see the hurt.
In this wild world of the internet, though, you don’t even have to see that. You annihilate them from your world. Are they hurting? You don’t need to know or care. Are they wanting to apologize to you for offending? TOO FUCKING BAD, right? Do they not even know they’re being ‘cut’ from your life like this? Sometimes, not at all. They’re found guilty of the hideous sin of having offended you, and there’s no appeals process. You don’t even have the right to face your accuser.
I don’t mean people shouldn’t ever pull the plug on a relationship, but I just…wonder if we could maybe take a look at what we’re doing, what the bar is. Is posting a meme against a politician you like enough to end a friendship? Do you REALLY like your politician better than your friend? (Seriously, if you like a politician more than an actual friend, I wonder how naive you are: Politicians lie! It’s what they do!) Do you really feel so strongly about this belief that rather than try to educate your friend, or appeal to his or her compassion, you’d rather just end things? Really? You care so little about your friend you won’t even put out the effort to sway them?
Who’s the problem, here, again?
But as a result, I’ve become gunshy about a lot of topics. I post nothing political. I never say anything to a friend unless it is relentlessly positive.
And I’m sad, because our friendships have become so fragile–not only does that diminish friendship, it does real damage to the world of ideas.
Let’s face it. I don’t know everything. I have some opinions that are probably wrong and stupid. The whole point of growing in life is outgrowing ideas that no longer suit us, realizing that the things we thought we knew aren’t always good or right or beneficial for a compassionate world. I’d much rather have someone call me out and take the time and energy to teach me, if not to change my mind then at least to be understanding of the other perspective, than be cut out of someone’s life eternally.
And I worry about the echo chamber they’re creating, and how, sooner or later, if they prune this or that person they disagree with away, they will be entirely, and utterly, alone.
Sooner or later, they’d even have to (I presume) have to disavow their former self, their own beliefs they no longer put faith in. That is, if they can even grow in these too sterile environments.