Bruno Maia, IconTexto http://www.icontexto.com
If your Facebook news feed has been anything like mine this week, you’re seeing a lot of talk about the results of Tuesday’s elections. Just as important as who won and why, and whether we ought to be more relieved or concerned, it seems, is the stance we are now going to take towards those in our circle of ‘Friends’ who have offended us in some way or another over the course of the last several months.
In the heat of the political battle, people have been posting links and commentary left and right on things we tend not to discuss too much in ‘polite company’. Now that the smoke is beginning to clear, it appears to be time to begin reckoning with what we now think we know about all these people we thought we knew, but now aren’t sure that we really want to know.
I have to say that I sympathize with people who once thought ‘oh, yeah, I should (be)friend that person’ and then are led to think ‘you know what, I don’t need this’. I have been there, as, I’m sure, many of you have been as well. I wonder, though, about the significance of posts coming in the wake of an election announcing that it’s now time to purge certain members from our circle of ‘Friends’.
I admit I’m prone to think they are rhetorical moves within a space that is rife with ironic proclamations that close friends will ‘get’ and that will be lost on others. Could they, however, be genuine expressions of personal offense and requests that people be more civil toward one another? Alternatively, could they be proclamations that we are willing to listen to what others think and feel only as long as their thoughts and feelings agree with our own?
The answer, of course, is likely to be ‘it depends’, and it may be that not a whole lot rides on any one particular case of a person deciding to separate the wheat from the chaff amongst those previously (be)friended. I think, however, that a larger question looms here for each of us who use social networking sites, and that a fair amount actually does ride on how we are able to answer it:
Does our use of social networking sites have the effect of helping us overcome divides that separate us from those from/with whom we differ in important ways, or does it serve rather to reassure us that there is no real need to take the people on the other side of these divides seriously?