I’ve been culling my Facebook friends list lately, in an effort to both save my sanity and in reflection of the fact that my kids are getting older and I want to be more selective about who gets to see pictures of them or to hear some of the stories from our life. Some of the deletes were easy — I started by getting out of any group that I didn’t add myself too (I have no desire to be in 27 dead groups of people who used to sell LuLaRoe). Then I looked at my friend’s list and asked myself “do I care even a little about this person’s life?” and then deleted all the “Nope” people. This group included former student workers from a job I had a decade ago, a former neighbor who has turned into a rabid anti-vaxxer who believes that the CDC caused the AIDS epidemic through the use of polio vaccines (huh?), and one old ex boyfriend that I friended a million years ago when I wanted to see what his now wife looks like (we all have our moments of internet shame).
The next question I asked myself was “does this person regularly post things that make me want to set my hair on fire?” and this is where things got a little trickier. I’ve deleted a handful of people in the last few years, including my own father, because all their posts did was put trash in my feed. Now, I should note that this isn’t because my dad is a Republican, even though I’m very politically liberal. I have a fairly high number of politically conservative friends (thanks Christian college!) and I think there is value in not living in an online echo chamber. But Trump changed that for me. I’m okay with realizing a friend and I disagree about the estate tax. I can even engage in civil, interested conversation about why I think we should substantially reduce funding for the military or about the appropriate role of unions. But I can’t abide the ugly dehumanization of people. Or glee over human rights abuses. Or tacit acceptance of mocking of people with disabilities. I can’t.
I’m someone who very much sees my social media life as part of my real life. Some of my closest friends (like the people who are my “in case of emergency” contacts for my kids) were people I met online first. My online self and my real self are the same, which makes me wonder if deleting people from my Facebook life means I’m deleting them from my “real” life. I haven’t spoken to my father since I unfriended him on Facebook the day after Trump got elected. I can imagine a future in which it is years before we speak again and I feel peace about that. I think about deleting some other “friends” who I can no longer respect and I wonder if I should tell them why I’m done. I wonder if they’ll notice I’m gone or if they’ve muted me because my cute kids to anti-Trump ratio of posts is no longer favorable to them.
This is what happens when you realize you don’t disagree about politics — you disagree about whether other people’s children are actually fully human. If we disagree about that, I don’t think I’ll miss you at all.