I had to defriend a friend yesterday, and I don't feel good about it. Facebook etiquette is getting more and more complicated, as more and more people join, and want you to be their "friend" -- whatever that means. When I tell people who don't know Facebook that I have 200 "friends" (a small number compared to many) I always use my fingers as quotation marks. Most of these people aren't truly known to me, let alone close friends. Many I have met professionally, some are relatives, some are real friends, but most are acquaintances at best. I have no idea who some of them are. I hope they are interested in my novels but who knows? Maybe they just saw my face on one of our mutual "friends" pages. Maybe they're just collecting friends like bottle caps.
The person I had to defriend was unfortunately someone I know from real life which makes it all the more painful. The fact that we haven't seen each other but once or twice in twenty-five years makes no difference. At one time we were friends. But we no longer seem to share values, and one of my criteria for friendship whether Facebook or Real is a shared set of values. I can be polite, civil, even share laughs with people who don't share my politics, my sense of right and wrong, my sense of justice and the way the world should work, even if it doesn't. I know people like this in Real Life and I like them, as long as they keep their politics to themselves.
Which brings us inevitably to politics, one of those things your mother told you never to discuss at a dinner party. Is Facebook a dinner party? Apparently not as many of my connections post links to articles they deem newsworthy, opinion-pieces they agree with, and polls that show how they feel about this or that issue. Personally I like this feature of Facebook much more than Mafia Wars or Little Green Patch which may be fun but they aren't making me understand my contacts any better. I don't do polls or games on principle. I can't figure out why the makers of these things need my personal info and pictures and all my contacts. That seems fishy. It may be bad manners to ignore these invitations but in that case I bow to bad manners.
Back to politics. People are so polarized these days. I understand people are afraid. People are worried about their jobs, their families, their futures. But there are also a lot of nutjobs out there taking advantage of people's fears. For whatever reason my friend was drinking the Koolaid of the right-wing. That's her privelege. She can believe, espouse, whatever she wants. She can grandstand on her Facebook page, to everyone she knows. She can try to engage people in discourse (although it didn't appear that was her actual goal.) A few weeks ago she was ranting regularly on her Facebook status, about health care reform, etc., and I put her on "hide." I figured that was that. I don't want to piss anybody off and the "hide" feature is good for that.
But she could still see my status and when I posted a link to an article about Glenn Beck's sponsors backing out on him, she could still post on my page. She said I espoused censorship. She posted a link to something I declined to check out. I deleted her posts. She said I was censoring her and she was "so disappointed" in me. I told her I would defend to the death her right to post her opinions on her own facebook page. Meaning, this is my sandbox. I make the rules. (If there is one thing I don't need is being told a friend is disappointed in me. Come on, you're not my mom.) And I defriended her.
It is bad manners to bully people on their own Facebook page. If you disagree vehemently with someone, Facebook is not the place to try to change their minds. It's social networking, girlfriend... we're supposed to get along. If we don't get along, we don't call each other friends. We fight or we walk away, those are the choices. She said she thought the discussion was healthy and we could still be friends. With my blood pressure going up every time I saw her name, there was nothing healthy or friendly about it. I saw her agenda and then, finally, I didn't see her at all. And then there was calm. A sad calm, but a calm.