Opinion in the Age of “Unfriending”

Social media continues to amaze and confound me.

My presence on various sites has given me the opportunity to remain in contact with long-lost friends, distant family, former colleagues, Army buddies and school chums – and allowed me to meet some really neat people from all walks of life and diverse interests.

Some of us push really personal things out to our ‘friends’ here in the great ether of the internet via social media – births, deaths, weddings, serious illness, hiring, firing, break-ups, make-ups, family issues, etc.

In fact, I’ve learned more about some people I’m scarcely acquainted with than I wanted to. . .

Many people I know are protective of their space – only letting family and close friends into their ‘inner-circle’ and perhaps that’s sound personal policy in this day and age.  In reality, I have a small handful of long-time friends in my ‘real life’ – tried, true and trusted members of my tribe who I’ve known all my life – wonderful souls who I trust exclusively and who have my best interests at heart despite my many faults and foibles.

I never lose sight of the fact that social media has nothing to do with real friendship, nor, I hope, will it ever.

When I receive requests I tend to take all comers – if you want to be ‘friends’ with me, well, I’m just appreciative of the fact someone took the time to reach out and share whatever their online persona may be with me (you know, that “face” people put forward on Facebook that makes us stars of our own reality show – then, when you meet them in person, you realize just how big the difference can be between someone’s ‘online’ and ‘offline’ personalities. . .)

Whatever.  We all do it.

I assume when I invite you into my online home that you will accept me for who and what I am – warts and all.

My ‘real’ friends can attest that I find humor and irony in most everything – the good, the bad and the ugly – perhaps a holdover from my days in law enforcement where we psychologically dealt with (often unsuccessfully) the tragic consequences of mans inhumanity to man with inappropriate jokes – we laughed rather than cry.

If we ever have the opportunity to meet, you will find that I am exactly what you get on the pages of this blog – a weird prophet with booze on his breath – profane, confused, concerned, irreverent, socially inept and always perplexed by the machinations of government and the gross betrayal of those we elect to look out for us.

Earlier this week, I posted a crude joke (admittedly meant in poor taste) dealing with the Kavanaugh appointment.  It was based upon a vulgar t-shirt slogan that some internet entrepreneur is hawking in the immediate wake of one of the most divisive two-week periods in the history of our nation.

I didn’t make and market the t-shirt – it was being advertised on Facebook! 

Most of my ‘friends’ took this stupid attempt at off-color humor in the spirit in which it was posted.

Others were so profoundly offended by my base political incorrectness that they blasted me with bitter contempt and angry vitriol – then immediately ‘unfriended’ me (something only possible in the digital age), banishing me to that dark place where anyone who challenges our sensibilities or – God forbid –  disagrees with us on the issues of the day are flushed from our lives with the click of a button.

What I found most unfortunate was that some of those who expelled me to social media purgatory are folks I’ve known and cared about for a very long time – before there even was a Facebook or Twitter – or internet, for that matter.

I removed the post.

Not because some overly sensitive social media ‘friend’ was unrealistically offended by something stupid I wrote – but because the thought of legitimately offending someone I have known most of my life was more distressing to me than any attempt to express the irony of this hyper-partisan shit show our nation has endured through a bad joke.

Taking it down was the right thing to do.  But it hurt that we are losing our freedom of expression at the altar of political and social correctness.

I hope whichever side of the political spectrum you fall – we can all agree that what the world witnessed during the Kavanaugh confirmation process was a national embarrassment – shamelessly perpetrated equally by both Republicans and Democrats.

Somewhere along the way we’ve become a nation of professional victims – with every issue, large and small, dissolving into a polarizing political nightmare of accusations and counter-accusations – the politics of personal destruction – coupled with the ability to turn off unpleasant people with differing opinions at the speed of a mouse click.

Nobody laughs anymore.

We are a people who have lost their sense of humor – divided cleanly along ideological lines and physically incapable of accepting any views different from our own or that of whichever political party we identify with.

For those who have threatened to never read these screeds again, I say good – given the circumstances we find ourselves in – you are doing yourself a favor by closing your mind, battening down the hatches, and shielding your personal sensitivities from my silly rants.

I don’t write them for a larger audience anyway – and, believe it or not, my opinion is no more valid or invalid than yours.

Even when Barker’s View began reaching thousands of people each month, I never once accepted advertising on this site, or, God forbid, charged for the feeble content – and I have never forced anyone at anytime to access this site.

I welcome everyone equally.

I’ve always considered Barker’s View a modern-day salon where people of all political persuasions can come and discuss the issues we all face in a safe and comfortable ‘no judgement’ environment.  In fact, I have only censored the views of readers once or twice – when the posts were physically threatening to someone else.

That has no place here.

The fact is, I would write these opinion pieces on our collective experience here on Florida’s Fun Coast if no one read them at all.  The writing is cathartic for me – a tonic to salve my anger, disgust and disbelief – and purge my own irreverent thoughts on the news and newsmakers of the day.

This blog site just happens to be a convenient place to park them.

I appreciate that so many wonderful friends and neighbors take time from their busy lives to stop by and consider my alternative opinion on the issues – and I really enjoy the larger debate and discussion these posts drive in the community.

In my view, to be offended by the goofy opinions of someone else is preposterous.

We live in an era where we can ‘unfriend’ each other at will – that is our right as denizens of the murky world of the internet – but I worry when we attempt to silence the views of others through blind rage and keystrokes.

Trust me.  In today’s political climate, at all levels of government, there is more than enough intrigue and machinations to be actually shocked and offended by without fighting among ourselves because our sense of humor or political opinions differ.

How were we able to live peacefully together as friends and family with differing viewpoints before the advent of the internet? 

How did we maintain quality interpersonal relationships before the Age of Unfriending? 

At what point did we dissolve into 326 million individual victims with political opinions so incredibly strong that they can destroy long-term human bonds in a digital nanosecond?

God help us. . .

 

Photo Credit: Toronto Sun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “Opinion in the Age of “Unfriending”

  1. Real friends do not unfriend you. REAL FRIENDS REALIZE YOU ARE ENTITLED TO YOUR OWN PERSONAL OPINION. Mark, l personally, went through this a few days ago, and posted about it. Cannot tell you who the three are right now as l only saw the number change. So…..it is what it is and l am the better for it. And, so are you. You know what you have to offer as a friend. I would never want to lose my wonderful friendship with you because of a difference of opinion. OMG…what small minded people these people were. I saw the post and knew and understood the humor. Be grateful they are gone and grateful for those of us who truly value you. Lou

    Like

  2. Mark,
    I was one of your friends that took offense to that particular post. I was one that said “you have lost a reader”. I don’t know if I was offended that you posted it or that someone had the thought of mind to create a T-shirt that advertises participation in one of the most horrific nightmares that could happen to a woman or man. It’s not politics. It’s way more personal than that. Politics, I can roll with the best of them. I don’t care who you vote for, but that you vote. I don’t care what sports team you like, but that you’re spirited. I have never taken offense to anything that you have shared from your heart. You tackle some stuff that others are unwilling to talk about. I appreciate it all.
    And here we are today. I didn’t unsubscribe or unfollow or unfriend.
    My sense of humor is still intact.
    My respect for what you do, still deep.
    As a survivor of abuse and sexual assault, it is my lifetime job to remain hostile to the indifference of those who do not know how serious those careless things wound. To be thought provoking and challenging. So in defense of those that unfriended, I understand.
    It’s not that they are way too serious, it’s that they’re still way too hurt.
    I appreciate you taking the post down.
    And I still appreciate your blog.

    Like

  3. On the other hand, if you took the same situation and moved it to the physical world.. Those uncomfortable with the joke may have felt pressured to laugh it off. If you care about the person, it’s better to know if it bothers them. Doesn’t have anything to do with wanting to be a ‘victim’ – just trying to be respectful of others. We’re all making an effort to be more understanding.. so this stuff is brought up more often now, giving the illusion of more issues. Just because people didn’t talk about it before doesn’t mean it didn’t exist. One thing I find really impressive about millennials is they make an effort to acknowledge their (and other’s) feelings & thoughts. They try to understand why people are how they are. Prev generations were very practiced at burying it all deep down. That doesn’t help anyone.

    I think if you can say “Sorry, you’re right, that sounded shittier than I expected”, and everyone can agree it’s ok, laugh it off… Then everyone made progress and is better for it.

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