If We Shadows Have Offended…

So I lost another friend on Facebook.

He’s a writer, and a fellow pulp fan, and I’d enjoyed knowing and occasionally interacting with him. I liked seeing what he had to say, and what he had going on.

I knew he was a conservative, while I am not. The fact that he holds to certain ideas didn’t make me think less of him as a person, it just made me wonder how he could reconcile those ideas with observable reality. But we all have our filters and our failings and our blindnesses, and I hoped that he, and the many other right-wing friends I have, wouldn’t allow disagreement with ideas to lead to discord between us as people. That has happened, of course, and people have fled my friends list over such issues, and even issues more trivial. The game writer S. John Ross unfriended me and actually blocked me on Facebook for a single polite comment disagreeing with his opinion of Johnny Cash. Talk about the courage of your convictions.

My attitude is usually that a friend lost in this way is no friend worth having, and I tend to operate on the principle of “If I offend you, that probably just makes us even.”

But anyway, I hadn’t seen anything from this friend for a while, and I grew concerned that maybe he was having health problems or something. So I visited his page, where I found that we were no longer friends. I naturally suspected the reasons for this, but I sent him a message and asked why he’d unfriended me, telling him that if I had offended him it hadn’t been because I intended to.

This was his response:

Tim, politicking like you do here is always going to offend people who don’t share your views. I’ve lots of “liberal” friends, we remain that way by not using FB to constantly expouse our politic philosophies, but for social interacting on the things that we share, our love of movies, comics, pulp novels etc. Towards the end, every posting you had was a slam against Republicans and I simply got tired of it. I still consider you a friend and admire you as a creative soul continue to wish you all the best.

I replied back:

Fair enough.

In my defense, I myself never kick anyone from my friends list because they disagree with me, and I allow respectful debate on my wall from anyone. I have my views, but I also reflexively credit others with the courage of their own convictions and assume they can face disagreement without it turning personal. My beliefs and ideas are certainly strong enough to stand criticism (and flexible enough to change, if evidence warrants).

I also assume that if someone wants to actually be a friend, even in the Facebook sense, that they’re interested in sharing thoughts and ideas and I’d never censor my genuine response to something because I thought it couldn’t be discussed among friends.

I see a lot of stuff that I disagree with, that I’m not interested in, and that annoys me in my own newsfeed, and I sometimes engage, but usually just let it slip past and allow my friends to express themselves, even if they’re not meeting my particular standards. I consider my Friends list a community, and I don’t insist that others agree with me or limit themselves to certain subjects that please me to be a part of that community. If I did, I’d feel I was unfair to them and shortchanging myself.

I’m sorry you see things differently. I’ve had nothing but respect for you in spite of our differences in philosophy, and I’ll miss having the chance to engage as friends.

I’m posting this not because I’m angry at him, or because I want to say that he’s wrong for having booted me out of his virtual community. Certainly I can understand that someone might find streams of commentary that flies in the face of their cherished beliefs off-putting, and clearly our personal relationship mattered less to him than the fact that we disagreed. Nobody is required to be my friend.

No, I’m posting this because it allows me to say all of this to the rest of my friends I don’t always see eye to eye with. If you’re on my friends list, it’s because I want you there, I value your presence in my community. I don’t insist you agree with me on everything, or that you shut up about stuff I might not want to hear. In exchange, I ask the same respect from you.

If I piss you off so much that you decide to discard me as a friend, that’s fine. I have only 5,000 slots on my friends list, and one of these days I’m going to reach the limit. If you’re not willing to be an active part of my community of friends, of equals, then I thank you for opening that space up for someone who may appreciate it more.

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