It’s Thursday night. You log on to your Facebook account to play a little Words with Friends and find your girl Brittney going H.A.M. in a comment thread about the 2012 presidential election. It seems your work friend of a year is a hardcore conservative who makes Rick Santorum look like Che Guevara. She is resolutely anti-choice and against gay marriage, but pro the defeat of what she sneeringly calls “Obamacare.” You, on the other hand, are a die-hard liberal–a supporter of Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign, who keeps her ACLU card and Team Obama talking points at the ready. Will you ditch your acquaintance from your cyber social circle? Probably not, according to a recent Pew Research Center report: 82 percent of social media users let political disagreements ride; they have not taken steps to sever connections for political reasons. Though, if you count yourself a progressive, you’re more likely to drop the hammer on different-minded friends.
If you have been surprised by a friend’s political views thanks to Twitter or Facebook, you’re not alone. Thirty-eight percent of social networking site users have discovered through their friends’ postings that their political beliefs were different than they thought. Liberals, who are more likely than conservatives to be engaged with social media, according to the report, were also most likely to block, unfriend or hide someone because of their political beliefs. Twenty-eight percent of liberals on social media have taken this action, compared with 16 percent of conservatives and 14 percent of political moderates.
My social media presence is aligned with my writing and I tend to cover touchy subjects like race, gender and politics. I am careful with whom I share my feeds and my connections are generally with like-minded people. I want social media to be a safe space where I can talk about issues I find important without offending or sparking unproductive arguments. For that reason, I have twice blocked acquaintances from my private Facebook feed. One casual friend, in particular, always seemed to argue about racial issues, questioning the lived experiences of black folks and urging me to focus on “real” racism. Yeah…that didn’t go over too well. My political belief in equality is interwoven with my personal values. I’m not down for debating the existence of “isms” and microaggressions in my social media “house”. You are entitled to your beliefs, but not necessarily on my Facebook wall.
What about you? Have dumped anyone from your online social circle because of their political beliefs?