It's been two weeks since the election, so I hesitate to kick this particular hornet's nest. But the election raised a lot of questions for me, ones I'm still mulling over. Such as:
* When someone unfriends another person because of his or her political beliefs, were those people actually friends or just acquaintances? If it's the latter, is Facebook really the place to connect? To me, Facebook is where you connect with people you care about; LinkedIn is for people you do business with; and Twitter is for broadcasting to the entire world.
|Image from Mashable|
* Isn't it unhealthy to only surround ourselves with people who think just like us? I'm not setting myself up as the poster child for diversity, by the way. I'm a Democrat and so are the vast majority of my friends. And I live in San Francisco, where Republicans are as difficult to find as convenient parking spaces.
One reason why many people only engage with those who think similarly is because they want to avoid conflict. I'm guilty here, too. But conflict can have positive results. Recently, I attended an excellent playwriting workshop in which the instructor said one character's driving need, desire or interest is blocked by another character, and that creates conflict. That conflict creates change, and change causes the characters to grow. If in real life we avoid interpersonal conflicts at all costs, aren't we denying ourselves the potential for change? Doesn't conflict, when it's resolved or at least expressed civilly and understood, lead to greater intimacy?
* Have we gotten too comfortable making assumptions about other people because of their political party affiliation? The truth is, nobody I know is all one thing or another. We're complex human beings with sometimes conflicting beliefs. For example, I know Republicans who support same-sex marriage and Democrats who favor the death penalty.
* How long does it take to repair a friendship damaged by political differences? Many years ago, a friend of mine expressed the belief that gays shouldn't be allowed in the military. The statement was made casually, just as many things are expressed today on Facebook, but it stung. I decided that person no longer my friend. Fast-forward to today. We are friends again--on Facebook, of course. And I'd all but forgotten this incident until Nick reminded me of it when reading a draft of this blog post.
* How much is too much when it comes to sharing political, religious, or other potentially divisive views on Facebook? Some people believe such topics are better kept off Facebook; others don't think twice about frequently posting their views. So what is the happy medium? One solution might be to create a Facebook group for your politically like-minded friends and only let that group see your most heated political postings. But that doesn't feel like a good solution, because you're making assumptions again about the people you're excluding. And by including people with different opinions, you might learn something from them.
* My last question is rhetorical but worth asking anyway. Wouldn't we be much better off if each of us considered the rights, needs and feelings of others along with our own, not just at election time but all the time?