I just unfriended a guy I went to law school with on Facebook. He is a Republican who kept posting things that were pro-Trump, racist, misogynistic, and/or hateful, either on his own wall or on others’ posts.
But I had the last-minute twinge of hesitation that I think many of us might experience when unfriending people with whom we have fundamental disagreements. After all, shouldn’t we be engaging these people in dialogue? Shouldn’t we try to understand them? Shouldn’t we try to bring them in to our circles, rather than kicking them out?
But it’s Facebook, a social and personal network, and we were linked as “friends.” He is not my “friend.” I haven’t seen him in almost ten years, and I don’t anticipate seeing him ever again. I wouldn’t want anyone to see him as a connection of mine and think that I share his personal views. If it were Twitter, I wouldn’t be “following” him. Maybe if we were connected on LinkedIn, I might continue having that “professional” connection; after all, it’s a different relationship, and I can recognize that he is an accomplished and skillful attorney, and can be used as such. But “friends”? We’re not, in life or otherwise.
Do we owe it to ourselves to expose ourselves to divergent viewpoints? Absolutely; this isn’t about living in a bubble. I read tons of things I don’t agree with – I’m one of the few people in the world, I expect, who has actually read Mein Kampf, for example. (It really is pretty terrible.) I’ve read the Bible and the Bhagavad Gita and am going to make it through the Koran. I made a point of reading The Communist Manifesto while drinking in the same pub where Marx supposedly met Lenin, and I subscribe to the Economist. It’s not about living in a bubble, or avoiding challenging viewpoints. It’s about choosing not to be associated with people I find repellant. Abhorrent.
I am reminded of Prince Hal and Falstaff. Sometimes you have to drop people from your life in order to move forward.