Valdosta Daily Times

What We Think

October 24, 2012

The politics of unfriending

VALDOSTA — Have you unfriended a Facebook friend because of political posts? Have you unsubscribed a friend, acquaintance, co-worker or relative from your Facebook News Feed because you either disagreed with their political opinion or because you tired of seeing them post their political opinion repeatedly?

If so, you are not alone.

And don’t worry, it’s more than a Valdosta or South Georgia trend. During this election cycle, people have been unfriending one another throughout the nation, according to a recent article “Unfriending the Enemy: Politics overload drives Facebook users to cut ties” in Time magazine.

The article cites a Pew Research Center study claiming one in five social networkers “has blocked, hidden or unfriended” people who post political items too often or are too disagreeable in their political postings.

Facebook was around four years ago for the 2008 election, but it has played a major role in the 2012 presidential election and is now working its way into local elections.

If you follow Facebook, for example, during any of the presidential debates, you have likely watched as several of your friends have posted comments regarding one candidate or the other’s performance. You have also likely watched as people have posted numerous derogatory remarks about one candidate or the other. You have possibly found some of those posts so disagreeable to your political opinion that you have blocked one or more poster from your News Feed … at least one in five of you have.

During the past several weeks in South Georgia, Facebook members have likely encountered friends posting their support for area candidates for offices such as county commissioner, state representative, sheriff, or state senator. While most of these posts are simply people saying why they support a particular candidate, even this has begun to change in the past few days as some people post why they cannot stand their candidate’s opponent. In some cases, it’s awkward enough to discover Uncle Bob’s political opinion for president differs completely from one’s own, but it seems almost embarrassing to encounter a poster denigrating someone in the community with the same political venom.

Of course, it’s even more awkward to read the posts of family members who disagree politically played out on the public Facebook forum. Why would anyone want everyone to know a father or son, or mother and daughter, vehemently disagree on who should be the next state senator or the next president or even the best fast-food restaurant … but that is apparently part of the ugly side of the social networking beast.

Perhaps, Facebook users could apply a lesson that many a bartender has enforced for years in pubs. No discussion of politics or religion at the bar. It saves people from arguing and even physically fighting. On Facebook, it may spare people from being silently unfriended.

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