Monthly Archives: November 2016

To Friend, Or Not to Friend…and More Controversially, to Un-Friend

Evil is unspectacular and always human,

And shares our bed and eats at our own table,

And we are introduced to Goodness every day.

Even in drawing-rooms among a crowd of faults;

he has a name like Billy and is almost perfect

But wears a stammer like a decoration:

And every time they meet the same thing has to happen;

It is the Evil that is helpless like a lover

And has to pick a quarrel and succeeds,

And both are openly destroyed before our eyes.
W. H. Auden

Last week, evil, with spectacular cunning and self-congratulatory malice, picked a quarrel and succeeded, sweeping so many of us downriver in a torrent of grief. I am still fighting for purchase, gasping for air and looking for something to hold onto as I struggle to reconcile a sadness that for the moment, is beyond reckoning.

The morning after the election I awoke hoping for some intervening middle-of-the-night miracle. It seemed impossible that a man, who through his own reprehensible words and actions demonstrated he was unfit to serve as this country’s leader, had been elected. And yet, there it was—there was no magical out. His ascension revealed a fracturing within America that was far worse than we had imagined, forcing me to accept that my beautiful, beloved and wholly imperfect America—the one I grew up with, was proud of, the one that I have always had such high hopes for—had died. In no small measure, it helped steady my grief to know that the majority of my Facebook community felt the same way. Their morning-after thoughts a welcome salve on the wounds of my post-election despair.

But there was also the “other” side of my Facebook community: people whose values—and this is not necessarily limited to political leanings—proved so grossly misaligned with my own. The bombastic “know betters” and self-proclaimed pedants who, through derisive and inflammatory comments, sought to tell me how I should feel, what I should believe, how I should act. Some posts and comments so outrageous that I, a woman not given to rage, found myself engaging in spiteful fantasies of recrimination not worthy of my better self. Further evidence that this deeply polarizing election has given rise to a nearly unprecedented mean-spiritedness (and that is a diplomatic characterization) in public forums that I for one have had enough of.

This was not the vision I had of Facebook when I began to build my community. Perhaps I didn’t think about it enough—I simply presumed it would be a place where like-minded friends could kick off their shoes and be themselves with impunity. But on reflection, I suppose it makes perfect sense that what I’ve ended up with is a community that doesn’t always make sense. In the early days of Facebook, I got caught up in its intoxicating novelty—friending everyone I met and failing to bring the notion of discernment into the equation. But the time has come to exercise agency, because now more than ever I want and need to feel at home within my community. I want to feel that my Facebook friends—even the ones I don’t know that well—are people whom I would wholeheartedly welcome into my home.

And in my house, first and foremost, we observe and promote basic rules of civility and human decency. We are not nasty or unkind. We acknowledge and support each other’s feelings and opinions, and when we have different points of view, we do not berate or bully or intimidate. When emotions run high, we are tender with one another.

In my house, we believe that “love is love is love.” We support gay marriage. We support people’s right to determine their own sexuality and sexually identify in whatever way is right for them.

We believe that all men and WOMEN of all races are created equal. Full stop.

We believe in religious freedom and further, that religious beliefs are personal and should not be imposed on anyone else—and that extends to the right to not believe in anything at all.

Not everyone is welcome in my house. There are only so many spaces around my table, and if my values are not in line with yours, I respectfully ask you to leave a seat open for someone else.

This is not simply a matter of politics, although certainly, that is a motivation. Trying to sell me on Donald Trump’s finer points is akin to trying to convince me that Hitler wasn’t such a bad guy. It won’t work, so please stop.

But there is another driving force behind this and that is my desire to create a community of people who legitimately care about who I am, what my values are, what I can contribute to the conversation.

If you friended me years ago and don’t remember why or who I am; please feel free to exit. If your interest in me is professional, let’s connect on LinkedIn.

If we elect to leave one another’s communities, it doesn’t mean that we can’t interact meaningfully and congenially in other ways. But this is my home and I want—and deserve to be—fully comfortable within it. And so do my guests.

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