It has happened a handful of times before.
It happened when Israel and Gaza went to war last summer. And when they went to war before that. It happened after the Michael Brown verdict, and after the Eric Garner verdict. It seems to happen after any major polarizing current event goes down without fail. And right this moment, it’s happening again.
I’m cleaning out my friends list on Facebook. I never seem to have to do this with my Twitter feed, and I guess that’s simply because on Twitter, I’ve tailored the accounts that I follow to very specific interests, not to random individuals who I may or may not actually know. (People from NASA rarely give me anything to get upset about, even the downgrading of planet status for Pluto.)
My friends list on Facebook, on the other hand, is composed of not just actual friends with whom I converse off-site regularly and close family, but also connections I’ve collected from grade school, high school, college, various jobs, animal rescue volunteering, and random other interests. There are some people whose names I don’t even recognize and with whom I have no mutual friends–if they post fun or interesting stuff and don’t offend me, I see no reason to cut them off. But, I do hope that at some point, I’ll remember how they “got here”. Luckily, there aren’t too many of them.
Right now, though, I’m at another one of my breaking points at which I need to do a big friends list clean-up. My unfriending setting is at “fire at will”. There were riots last night in Baltimore, set off when tempers flared during the protests over the murder of Freddie Gray. I don’t like rioting, but I certainly despise the severing of spinal cords, smashing of voice boxes, and ending of lives–and police brutality–a hell of a lot more.
I have zero patience left for people who display entitled, ignorant, and flat out racist attitudes in response to protesters and rioters, people who call them “animals” or who think that it’s good for mothers to beat their sons for rioting. I have no desire to be connected on a social network, or any other way, if I can help it, with anyone who cares more about destruction of property or the status of a baseball game, than the fatigue and frustration that others show over being subjected for years to poor social services, failed educational systems, and out-and-out violence at the hands of those charged to serve and protect them.
It’s amazing that we have seen black man after black man beaten or shot to death by white police officers over the past few months–not years, months–and I am still finding people on my Facebook timeline who still just do not get it.
What will it take for people to clue in?
I’m not sure what I even feel at this point. Astounded that I have so many people left on my friends list with this pearl-clutching kind of racism that only rears its ugly head when something like this happens? Embarrassed, even though I had no clue what kind of company I was keeping? Dread, because I’m sure at least a couple of the people I’m unfriending will figure it out and send me a friend request later (since they can’t take a hint) or I might even “luck out” with yet another jilted ex-friend who decides it’s time to take out all life’s problems on me and write me an angry private message delineating how I’m the world’s worst person for unfriending her/him? (I never read those messages, but I always get an eyeball-full when they show up before I hit delete. It’s exhausting no matter what happens.)
Honestly, sometimes, this can be the best thing. I have a very high friend count. I don’t even see status messages and posts from the vast majority of my friends because there are hundreds of them. I miss baby announcements, death notices, stories about adventures in school or jobs, other things that I’d really like to see. And then what I do see are statuses from people who are outright miserable individuals who want everyone else to be miserable right along with them. Why not make things so that I can see the kinds of posts that I want to see a lot easier, and make my friends list actually reflect who my friends actually are, not just a collection of people with whom I never actually have true interactions–and with whom I possibly don’t want to interact? The majority of people I’ve unfriended today don’t even comment in any fashion on my posts. If they do, they frequently make me cringe with what they say.
I was talking with some good friends just last night about spring cleaning of a spiritual kind. Maybe, in a twisted sort of way, G-d wants me to do that again now through the worst of circumstances. Up until today, I had a bunch of people set to “restricted status”, only allowed to see my public posts, because I didn’t have the guts to unfriend them, even though their comments on other things I’d posted in recent months rubbed me the wrong way. I was concerned, most of the time, about upsetting mutual friends if I did that unfriend. That’s no reason to hold onto someone as a friend, though, let’s be real. If you can’t live with yourself at the end of the day, who can you live with?
Today, I unfriended those restricted individuals and got things done and over with. Hopefully, I won’t hear back from them again. I know I did the right thing because if I was that nervous about what they’d say next whenever I posted something, I really don’t need them around. I also really didn’t like what I saw on their timelines on a regular basis, to be honest.
Social media, especially Facebook, can be a very tricky beast. We can either let it run all over our lives, chewing things up and making us miserable, or we can tame it and make it our best friend. I’ve chosen to not let it drive me up the wall anymore. I’m not a friend collector any longer. If I can’t see you as a genuine friend or as someone whose moral and ethical views are respectable, I’m just not keeping you around. No exceptions. And no more putting you on “restricted status” in fears that unfriending you will upset anyone else or result in drama later. I can handle turning down a “you didn’t mean me, did you?” friend request or blocking you for sending me some childish hissy fit private message. Handled it before, and I’ll handle it again.
And if other people don’t like who I choose not to associate with, they’re not really my friends, either. That’s all especially true when it comes to people who spew racism.
Neither desired, nor required.
Gavriela hails originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania but now resides in Forest Hills, New York. She has a Masters degree in clinical social work from Temple University and is a dedicated volunteer in the animal rescue community. Gavriela is a major science geek and finds that her love of science strengthens her belief in G-d and vice versa, contrary to what others might expect.
Header image courtesy of Creative Commons.