It may seem trivial, but it hurt me to “unfriend” someone on Facebook today. (Note for any late tech adaptors: Unfriending is a Facebook function activated by one click of the mouse that discontinues direct sharing of one another’s timelines of activity.) To punctuate the statement, I posted a public message on this person’s Facebook page that explained that their posts perpetuate too much divisiveness, prejudice and bigotry for me around the concepts of gender, race, religion and politics; that I had realized that these were not cyber-bytes of entertainment, but were dangerous; and that the day had come to unfriend. (See screenshot of Facebook post above.) I will no longer receive and read the rants of this person’s multiple, daily posts—sometimes up to a dozen or so everyday. One word: Superuser.
Still, this superuser is my friend.
Here are another few words: Complicity. Negligence. Violence. These are practices as common as rice and bread and fufu and pasta in our world. Among the smaller and larger horrors far and wide—in our houses, our communal places, our cities and our hearts—it is the daily and continuous montage of seemingly insignificant acts of indifference and hate by ourselves and those we love deeply that scare me most. And, the complicit, negligent and violent response of our relative silence. So for months, instead of initiating actual conversation with my real life Facebook friend, I toyed with the logic and language of this person’s posts by making counterargument posts and “hashtagging” witty, contrary phrases. It was only last week that the opportunity found me, and I gathered the courage to tell someone I love that they stand for so much that I stand against.
One of the “likes” on my unfriend post was made by one of this friend’s sons. My friend's daughter LOL'ed when I texted to tell her the story; said that she had “unfollowed him long ago”; and welcomed me “aboard.”
There’s a boundary that is creating me. Usually, it’s the other way around—people create boundaries. Though, I have not wished to reach the farthest frontier of my willingness to consume words rooted in ideas that terrorize my sense of wellbeing. I am a professional interculturalist! [Insert sarcastic tone.] For better or worse, if I have learned anything from professional elders in the field, it’s that I am to be ever culturally relativistic; never surprised by the horrors fed by cultures that humanity creates; always willing to bend to another’s understanding as I engage with them in an effort to unearth their assumptions if not help them see another side. I first felt rumblings of this boundary a few years ago at a job that was not a fit for me. At that time, I questioned my commitment to the work; feared that I was allowing my mindset to become old and crotchety. And now, I trust that the boundary defines my very commitment to the work.
Still sitting with the personal impact of the broader, bolder meaning of my action. This friend is someone who has known me since birth.
Ever-willing to engage in a productive conversation, and increasingly inclined notto bend until I break under the weight of dialogues that flow only one way, I feel steady and calm in my decision. Unfriending is not just for Facebook. It’s whatever peaceful protest we may make to slow—if not stop—the spout of hate and indifference that runs into, and muddies, all our lives. Take note of the messages that enter the “inbox” of your mind; sort them based on usefulness; and make small statements of action that represent grand stands for what you believe. Who will you unfriend?
Dedicated to my dear uncle, who I unfriended today.
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people. place. purpose.