Yesterday my hand hovered over the Unfriend button on Facebook. Having only unfriended once before, I'm a bit of a Unfriending Virgin so it didn't come easily or naturally. I felt my blood boiling and a thousand justifications to go through with the impulse:
- He was, what I would consider, rude on my most recent Facebook update.
- He then went and commented three more times, shaming my friends who were commenting.
- His politics and world view are clearly far from my own.
- And to boot? I don't even know the guy! We have mutual friends but this was my first interaction with him so not much to lose by unfriending him, right?
But I paused. I made a silent deal with myself that I'd at least not do it from a place of anger and give myself the day to think through what I want my grounds to be for unfriending someone.
In the meantime, I wrote him back laying down my ground rules, modeling kindness, and showing my willingness to protect my friends:
"The purpose of this post is to invite those who want to give to do so... I ask you to honor those of us with that intent without needing to argue. And please don't insult my friends who have good intentions. We are all doing what we can in all kinds of situations here and around the world. If you want to write me personally please do but this post isn't for your politics. Thanks!"
What prompted his outburst? You can see my original post at end of this blog post-- it was regarding something politically charged but it was the first time I had posted on this subject, the first time in months I've posted on anything happening in the news, and I thought I had worded it in such a way where I was clear I wasn't trying to convert anyone to my way of thinking. Nonetheless, it hit one of his nerves.
Reasons I Don't Want to "Unfriend"
Google the terms "Reasons to Unfriend" and you'll get pages of everyone's advice ranging from their 5 to 10 reasons to unfriend, all the way up to one post of 35 reasons to unfriend! Certainly I'm not opposed to others unfriending as we all use Facebook for different reasons, have different standards for who we want to add as a friend, have different capacities for what we can handle at different times, and just because I haven't yet had an ex, a stalker, or an abusive person in my News Feed, doesn't mean others haven't! So I get the need for unfriending.
And yet.... here are a few personal reasons why I don't want to unfriend too easily:
- Disagreeing views: The action of unfriending someone who comes from a different worldview contributes in a small way to the global problem we have of not being able to hear each other. Why should I expect my leaders and others to reach across the aisle if I can't even stand reading a few sentences? It's really important to me to be exposed to all beliefs either to practice finding common ground or at least keeping me from only hearing what I already believe.
- Jealousy: The action of unfriending someone because their posts make me jealous (whether b/c they have other friends, do more fun stuff, or seem more successful) would imply that they are the problem instead of seeing the reaction as something I need to examine. The big goal isn't to get rid of all triggers in life, but to learn how to feel peace and self-worth even when triggered! It's really important to me to own my own stuff and not hold other people accountable for how I feel.
- Lack of Friendship: Certainly if you only have close friends on FB then that's one thing, but I made a decision a while back that, for me, FB was about interacting with my wider circles and meeting new people so in my case just because I don't know someone, or the friendship didn't develop where I hoped it would, or we aren't as close as we used to be--I still think they are valuable people to follow and learn from. It's a small way for me to keep my "finger on the pulse" of what people are talking and caring about. It's important to me that remember that I can learn from anyone, even if we're not close in real life.
Again, I get that if your goal is just to have the 100 people in your News Feed that you know-- then that's awesome. For me, Facebook is more like a town square where I go to interact, connect with friends, and learn what's going on around me; like a big party, I expect there will be some I like more than others but I don't feel a need to eliminate them nor do I fear exposure.
Primarily I just don't want to unfriend out of any un-examined feeling of anger, jealousy or sadness without looking at where it's coming from inside of me. I want to learn, as much as I can, to move through life without seeing others as obstacles, annoyances, problems, or enemies. I want to challenge myself to try to see the valuable humanity of every single person, trusting that they are amazing, even if I don't see it easily.
Why I Will Unfriend
So yesterday I ate lunch with my husband who helped me wrestle with when I do want to unfriend a specific person, namely the person who had posted rude comments on my wall, in response to my post. I didn't want to remove him just because he disagreed with me, but I concluded that if he persisted in using shame and disrespect in his comments, especially toward my other commenters/friends-- that to protect them, I'd remove him.
For now persistent shame is top of my list.
There are possibly other reasons I will, too... I'm leaving the door ajar. But I am challenging myself to think each situation through-- owning as much as I can, not doing it impulsively, and trying to at least engage kindly before I do. My mantra in friendship is always to lean in before pulling away, when possible.
So before lunch I had written him back kindly asking him to refrain-- stating honestly what I expected on my wall.
I concluded that if he continued to antagonize I'd most certainly unfriend him.
He wrote me a note last night:
I am sorry if I offended you. But I am really upset with what is going on. You can re-post and I promise not to interfere.
To which I responded:
Thank you for this note-- it means a lot. In a day and age where many people just unfriend each other, I'm glad we can practice staying connected and being respectful of each other. Have a happy thanksgiving!
And then he wrote again:
I KNOW that you meant well. You just caught me at a bad time. Good Luck! with you effort to help people who need it.
Isn't that beautiful? I love it! If I had simply unfriended him when I was tempted to do so then:
- I wouldn't have had the privilege of practicing kindness toward people who frustrate me (and I need to keep building up that muscle!)
- He wouldn't have had the privilege of healthy feedback letting him know the effect of his words, giving him the sacred privilege of deciding how he wanted to engage.
- We wouldn't have had the chance to connect and wish each other well.
- I would have ended yesterday still mad at him instead of grateful and sympathetic.
- Now I'm guessing that as we go forward, he'll be a lot more thoughtful when leaving comments on my page since I set the tone of what I allow and don't allow.
I am fine with all of you unfriending more often than I do and I don't think we need to keep everyone on there.... BUT I do want to invite each of you to think through your own reasons for why you'll unfriend, what that means to you, and what you might be missing out on when you do it.
I, perhaps naively, dream of a world where we all get along with each other... but I think that means we each have to be willing to practice it in our own back yards (or News Feeds) as much as we possibly can.
p.s. Unfortunately, I don't think you can add me as a friend, but if you want to follow me on Facebook, then welcome!
p.s.s. This is what I posted yesterday:
"No matter where we each stand on whether we want refugees in our states... I hope we can all agree this is a crisis with real human beings needing the aid of others. This morning Greg and I went to make a donation to the International Refugee Committee and saw that they have a feature for a DIY campaign. Not that we have all this extra time on our hands but because we have the most generous and loving friends, we thought "Let's invite others to join us!"
We would be honored to have our friends and family make a tax-deductible donation to the IRC with us, giving us all a chance to put some money where our hearts and words already are: http://diy.rescue.org/refugeelove"
(I'd love to add 20 more women who are willing to each donate $50 if you're up for being one of them! I'll be sure to write you my personal thanks!)