When to Hide Facebook Friends

Sometimes I feel quite a bit out of place. Online talking to some of my friends, I feel like they view me as some sort of arch liberal, intent on destroying the world and ridding it of any traditional values. But then I’ll interact with real, honest-to-goodness liberals and I feel like some sort of archaic, family values standard bearer.

Honestly, this doesn’t upset me most of the time. I consider myself in between those two extremes. There are some issues where I am definitely quite liberal in my leanings, and others where I’m still staunchly conservative. It’s one of the reasons why I dislike the two party system so much and resist labels in general. A label seeks to define. I find them limiting. You’re either a liberal or a conservative. Either a Republican or a Democrat. With us or against us.

This is a problem that’s been exacerbated by social media. There are many many people that I don’t usually interact with on a daily basis. Social media makes that less possible. In some ways, that’s a good thing, right? It connects the world and brings people closer together, on its best days. But there are family members who I would normally just chit chat with about the kids and the good old days. And there are business associates who I rarely see and interact with, and when I do, it would be to discuss safe topics like the weather and how big of a pain email can be.

Sometimes, being Facebook friends with these people is a great surprise. We become closer friends and discover a lot of cool similar interests. I can say with a certainty that a lot of my new healthy lifestyle has been inspired by people I wouldn’t have rubbed elbows with much had it not been for social media. And a good deal of my open thinking is due to me talking and interacting with people on both sides of that R/D spectrum.

But there are other times when social media is definitely Not a Good Thing. Because it pushes those casual relationships farther than they can sustain. You discover just what your long lost high school friend thinks about Black Lives Matter, gun control, abortion, Donald Trump, gay marriage, and any number of other issues. Issues no one in their right mind would broach with a casual acquaintance, or someone you rarely see. Imagine going to a party, seeing someone you’ve spoken to five years ago, walking up to them, and proclaiming, “The second amendment needs to be defended at all costs. Let me tell you about this study I read the other day.”

We know better than to do this. Not because these issues aren’t important to us, but because that’s just not an appropriate party conversation to lead out with. (Sure, you could argue that it’s an issue everyone should think about, and that THEY ALL NEED TO AGREE WITH ME, but we can see that’s not going to happen, right?)

It can get even worse, of course. You don’t just see and interact with casual friends, you’re stuck talking to their casual acquaintances as well. And so social media can devolve into this sick, hellish reflection of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, where you’re debating with your dentist’s high school friend’s college roommate’s aunt about just how racist Donald Trump is. And it feels in that moment like it’s the most important thing in the world that you win that argument.

And social media encourages us to take sides. Not overtly, but by its nature. We make statements and read things we disagree with, and the next thing you know: argument.

Which is all just a really long way of me explaining why I hide so many friends on my Facebook and Twitter feeds. If I get to a point with a person where my main interaction with them is to read their status updates and get upset by what they believe, I hide them. Not because I want to insulate myself in a bubble, but because I have no real desire to let social media ruin relationships with friends, family, and business associates. Sure, I suppose this means I might not be Changing the World one Facebook update at a time, but I still write this blog every day and interact plenty with anyone who cares to comment, so I think I have that done.

What I mean to say is that you can (and should) get a wide spectrum of news reporting in your life, but it doesn’t have to come from Facebook. In fact, it shouldn’t. Go directly to a variety of news sites. Read it. Come up with an opinion on your own. But don’t rely on your roommate’s distant relation to fill you in on it all.

It’s not personal when I hide someone. I’ve only defriended one person in the past decade, that I can remember. I stay friends with everyone else, because I still consider them friends. But because I want to stay friends, I know when it’s time to not be quite so close.

That’s my policy. What’s yours?


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2 thoughts on “When to Hide Facebook Friends”

  1. Bryce, this is exactly what I do, however I don’t hide the feed, just the post that I don’t want to see, or that ends up being hateful and argumentative. I’ve found you can’t change people’s minds but I don’t want to see the hateful diatribes. Loved your post

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