I am the king of Facebook friends!  I have a whopping 154! Down from over 250 five years ago! I am THE poster child for Facebook popularity. My general rule of thumb on Facebook is that if we have met and get along, you can join the Bruce Gordon dissatisfaction show. If we have not met, follow me on Twitter. It is a simple rule I follow, and this rule evolved over time as I refined my definition of what is a Facebook friend.  I have contacts on Facebook, btw, that have thousands of friends, and I wonder how many beers have they drunk with one of them over the year.

Truth be told, the title of Dale Carnegie’s book, that I unscrupulously stole, is something that is very difficult to do in our current social media world. In fact, his adage, “If You Want to Gather Honey, Don’t Kick Over the Beehive”, could apply to Facebook, but I get the feeling, in some cases, that the beehive has not only been kicked over, it has been pummelled, punched, sat on, and lit on fire.  Not much honey to be had.  Pity.

Where moms use to say “if you have nothing nice to say, do not say it”, social media encourages freedom of speech, even if it is not sensitive. It seems that self-control in our social interactions has been replaced with anger talk, or people taking up the flag of certain social and political positions.  There is a sense of entitlement to speak one’s mind. Social media is moving more and more away from a friendship tool and becoming a tool for activism, debate, and hate speech. It is also becoming a news source, which is proving unreliable and biased.

The end result, what social media promised to be a fun way to reconnect with old friends, is now creating deeper divides as we forget more and more how we interact in person with people. Should Facebook be more a reflection of our offline interactions?

And I am the as guilty as anyone in terms of expressing my thoughts too freely.  It starts innocently with posts that solicit a laugh, specifically, the “Too Much Information” posts. Humour around bodily functions, sexual parts or activity, or the noise one makes when they eat a boiled egg, is actually the start down a slippery slope.  Some of us remember that we were instructed never to talk about “sex, religion, and politics” in mixed company. Sometimes we drop those barriers when we are in trusted company. Social Media is always mixed company, unless you invest a lot of time in controlling who sees what.

Ever unfriended someone in real life?  How about on Facebook? How are they different? If you have been unfriended, how does that feel? Facebook unfriending can be surprising, unexpected, and offers no solid reason. In my case, it is easy to understand and guess why.  Here are the top reasons why I lost many Facebook friends:

  1. Natural distance. They were people  I did not know well to begin with, and we did not have any social media interaction.
  2. Leaving a community – where the people do not engage socially with others outside of the context of the community
  3. By association. Divorce couples unfriend common friends. If my spouse or close friend unfriends a mutual friend, then by association  I may get unfriended.
  4. My posts offend someone and they do not want to bother discussing them
  5. Politics.

Politics, lately, has been the main source of division.  There are no longer debates over political ideologies. Rather, they are put-downs of people who have belief in the other side.  Last provincial election, the Liberals should have been voted out of office, there was a lot of corruption (still is). The amount of conservative propaganda that was bombing my timeline was unreal!  I did not mind the propaganda that hilited the Liberal corruptions. What I did mind were the insults hurled not only at the corrupt Liberal party, but also Liberal supporters. “Lib-tard” became a fashionable, and offensive expression.  There are others. I posted my Liberal propaganda, not because I wanted to influence a vote. I was just being obnoxious. Result – lost some conservative friends.

Now comes the Trump world. More than any in recent memory, this past US election has had a spiritual impact sent rippling through society and impacting people’s lives. This simply isn’t like a victory of Republicans over the Democrats, or vice-versa. Let’s be clear again about what happened. The Americans elected as its president a person who aroused evil fears of racial bigotry to gain political power, who blamed and demonized vulnerable immigrants, who displayed the most vulgar behaviors toward women, who expressed wholesale mistrust toward Muslims, who tried to criminalize his opponent, who attacked the functioning of the free press, who dismissed threats to the planet’s sustainability, who promised to wall America off from outsiders, and who pledged to protect the economic security of the nation’s most wealthy, even while shielding his own wealth from public accountability by not disclosing taxes. This, not to mention, suspicions of collusion with Russia.

I am now seeing, in Canada, conservatives posting more hate speech than ever. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind good political satire, especially when warranted. What I despise are people who show little respect for others, even in a heated political forum. Debate your point with respect, not by insulting or promoting fear.  I have not unfriended often, but I have when people posted something that hateful or promote values that may be hateful or hurtful to someone.  Vocal association with Trump risks that.  This is really challenging for people I know who tend to be right-wing. They have no choice as their political values are now tightly linked to a man who is promoting hatred and evil.

If I were a conservative, I would be crying.  I always pitied the US for having such poor choice of candidates for this past election. Since his election, have you noticed that Trump is arousing the emotions negatively of our content EVERY DAY!  That does not unite. That divides. All we see on the news, (and I won’t get into the fake news commentary), is Trump. There is no escape from this person who promotes hatred more than I have ever seen. The only way I escape it is by shutting everything off and reading a good non-political book.

Fake news or real. It does not matter. Damage is being done.

I have no problem accepting people with different political ideologies as me. I actually can learn and grow from differences of opinion and I think that is healthy. I enjoyed the debate between Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders on health care in the US. It was clear which side of the fence they stood on, and they presented their case and rebuttals well. It was a reasonably intelligent discussion, from which one can make a choice of ideology. These discussions CAN happen.

I am challenged by this Trump phenomena and dealing with those who ally with Trump ideology.  Trump has not shown any good so far. In fact, he has shown nothing but evil, and I am seeing that type of approach entering Canada, which concerns me.

Can relationships on Facebook even be a possibility with all this activism? I think so if we learn to behave,  but I think culturally we are not going in that direction.  The more we promote evil by associating with Trump openly and the further we are promoting fear and hatred in Facebook commentary, the more we divide ourselves and lose sight of any good.

I believe there is a spiritual need for mankind to connect with one another and build relationships. It is a shame that politics has now created a space of deep rooted anger and hatred, only enhanced from a social media perspective. Walls are being built as people with identical ideologies are coming together, and anything different remains on the outside. There is little choice for some. It may be the only way to keep social media stress free. Sad case. In a world where we are overly scheduled, tools like Facebook sometimes remind us we are not alone.

I am always looking to make real connections with people. I use Facebook as a tool to do that. Facebook helps, but in person connections are more meaningful as memories are built together. Relationships can be fostered on Facebook to encourage the bridge to in person contact. Just got to apply the in person rules we had been given in the pre-facebook world.

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