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Ask Aunty Pam

Dear Aunty Pam,

I’ve been really depressed lately over losing some friends on Facebook and also personally. I won’t tell you what political party I am but even when I post a very even keeled comment, I feel like I get attacked by people who I thought were my friends, or at least could exercise some common courtesy.
I know we live during a time of a very polarized country, but I find myself ‘unfriending’ people I thought I knew for years because they’re being so hateful, and others absolutely refuse to discuss anything rationally—even if I show documented, proven truth to defend my point—they just dismiss or make some snarky response.
It’s now at the point where I avoid a couple of people in my neighborhood who I always considered to be friends, and a woman who runs a gift shop in town that I’ve known and liked for years has stopped talking to me. It’s really depressing, and my husband said this is why he never posts anything political on Facebook because it stirs people up. He also said it seems ridiculous to unfriend people just because they don’t agree with me. I get where he’s coming from, but I feel like on one hand, there’s few things more important than a presidential election, with the platforms that come with it. On the other hand, I’m wondering if these people that I’m no longer friends with were really friends to begin with? And if they weren’t, why do I feel so bummed about it?

Political Patty

Dear Patty,

I too understand your husband’s statement, however, social media is a little different from a dinner party in which it is a well known taboo to discuss religion or politics. When people become Facebook ‘friends,’ or ‘followers,’ they generally have a sense of what kind of person you are from your postings. You may be someone who generally enjoys sharing puppy videos or post 25 photos of you and your “wonderful husband!!” during your “wonderful trip to Barbados!!” during your “wonderful surprise trip!!” Or…you may be someone who is extremely interested in the social and political ramifications of an election on this country.
And that sounds like you. Ain’t nothing wrong like that.
Because you make a point of stating that your posts have been ‘even keeled’ and ‘documented,’ I’m going to assume they’re not provoking or belittling in any way. For example, there’s a rather large difference in posting, “I believe a GOP majority in the senate will ensure a trickle down economy for the middle class,” and “I know Libtards will disagree, but a GOP majority will…”
You are certainly not asking too much for friends to be civil. People will often self identify with a candidate much the same as they will with a sports team. Oftentimes any criticism of a candidate can translate to a supporter that they are being criticized as well, and they get their hackles up. (I have no idea what ‘hackles’ are, by the way.)
You may simply be feeling ‘bummed’ because, well, let’s face it, confrontation isn’t a picnic. No one likes the idea of severing ties with people we’ve been friendly with for years. But Aunty Pam thinks it’s a bit trivial to think this has happened because, as the hubs says, “just because they don’t agree with you,” unless you’re a rip-roaring control freak. When we’re talking politics, we’re talking about fundamentally different points of view that shape our characters. And when politics become polarized, points of view can become exceedingly black and white. Especially if religion is also woven through, ye gods!
We choose friends mostly because we share things in common with them. In a perfect world, we could still have lots of things in common and in regards to politics, we could politely ‘agree to disagree,’ and that seems to be what you hoped to find. If your former friends weren’t capable of doing that, then, yeppers, I’d have to agree that they weren’t really your friends at all. And you know what? There’s a big difference in ‘being friendly with,’ and friends. For example, I’m friendly with a man who works at a local bakery because sometimes he gives me a free cupcake. I could give a rat’s patootie who he votes for. I want that wadge of chocolate mint frosting. But my friends are my friends, through thick or thin. It sounds as though your former ‘friends’ were perhaps good ‘acquaintances’ that, when they learned more about you, and you, them, you both decided not to let the relationship grow any further.
In the end, you purged these people because they were behaving unacceptably. I’d have done the same thing. Most folks would.
Have a cupcake, Patty. And embrace the friends you have. You’ll feel better.

Cheers, dear!

Aunty Pam