I got “unfriended” from Facebook the other day—by a guy I consider a friend, and he had the guts to write and tell me why. An aside before I get into that: I’ve never “unfriended” anybody, but I’ve “friended” people whom I really have to stretch to call “friends”, not that I have anything against them, but because the connection is so tenuous that…well, I might do some “unfriending” myself. I don’t accept every friend request; if I honestly don’t know the person from Adam’s housemaid, then I ignore the friend request, which I did twice in the past day. Some folks, of course, “friend” every person who requests it, even if they have never had any connection with the person. I don’t get that. I don’t know why anybody would want to “friend” me if I have zero connection with the person; I sure don’t.
But I digress. As I said, this friend “unfriended” me over some of the posts I’ve made on this blog, not because they’re on this blog, but because through a utility known as Wordbook, my blog posts—including this one—will be automatically published to Facebook. He comes from a different political persuasion than do I (hey, he needs to read what I write, huh?), but his point was that in some posts, I’ve gone over the line in my terminology, in using what he calls “intemperate language”, and what particularly cheeses him is the fact that on Facebook, some (not a lot) of my friends are kids, but even there, my posts show up on the sites of all my friends, and are thus seen by friends of friends, many more of whom are likely kids. That’s his beef.
And he’s right.
I went back and looked at two months’ worth of posts, and found two posts that, in my mind, clearly went over the line in this regard. They have both been removed. Both were posted in my frustration, in relation to Obamacare, and I have made no secret of the fact that while I very much favor health care reform, wholeheartedly oppose this plan, for a variety of reasons. All well and good—but it is incumbent upon me to phrase my opposition—even as I might employ cynicism and other rhetorical devices—in such a way that I maintain appropriate respect for the principles involved. Even when I believe they have acted dishonestly, or have breached integrity—and I have plenty of examples which I’d point to to prove, to my satisfaction, that this has been the case—I still need to be careful in my language. I have not been, in at least those two examples, and thus they’re gone, though one can’t put the cat very well back into the bag vis a vis Facebook. Further, I’m engaged in a great, constructive conversation with my “unfriend”, in which I’ve asked him to look through his lens and give me additional feedback. Funny…my “unfriend” is acting like a true friend in doing this for me…
And so, I’m going to try, given this perspective, to apply a new test to the wording of my posts: call it the “Little Eyes are Reading on Facebook” test. I’ll still be strong in my criticism of whatever needs criticizing, IMHO—but I’m going to try to do a better job of engaging in it in a civil manner. Funny…or sad…I decry the devolution of civility in public discourse—but maybe I’ve done some things to contribute to it. I’m sorry for that.
James reminds us that the tongue is a mighty flame, and a great fire can be kindled by it. The pen—or the pixel—is as well. That’s something we all could stand to remember, be our ideology conservative, liberal, libertarian, you name it. I know I need to. Thanks, “unfriend”, and I look forward to our ongoing conversation—even if I need to be further taken to the woodshed…