Facebook Unfriending and the Election

 

Mashable’s Chris Taylor posted an article about the relationship between the 2012 Presidential election and the action of Facebook unfriending entitled, “After the Election, Time to Heal Your Facebook Divide.” Evidently, 47% of people who responded to Mashable’s poll have unfriended Facebook users as a direct result of the election. Taylor encourages Facebook users to rethink about unfriending others.

Taylor begins by congratulating the Obama supporters and inspires them to re-friend users they unfriended. Then he kindly comforts the Romney supporters by reminding them that the democrats know how the republicans are feeling from the 2004 election. Interestingly, Taylor believes that democrats will not rub their victory in republican’s faces on social media outlets.

This article really hit home for me because I was tempted to unfriend Facebook users during the election after reading offensive, annoying and unnecessary political commentary. People did not care about offending segments of their audience and in doing so exposed their “back stage” behavior (Goffman). Normally, people encode messages and use strategic filtering tactics to avoid context collapse with the least common denominators (“I Tweet Honestly”). Conversely, one random “friend” of mine from high school posted disrespectful and offensive statuses that even encouraged Obama supporters to unfriend her?!. As tempting as it was…I decided not to give in, brush it off and move on with my life.

After all, this is America, which is built on the belief of freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment. As Voltaire eloquently said, “I don’t agree with what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.” Our Facebook friends have the right to post their thoughts! Taylor eludes that unfriending people ignores their rights and our founding principles. It is important to hear views that differ even though it is human nature to surround yourself with like-minded individuals. In Hargittai’s article, “Open Door Closed Spaces” she writes about how “constraints experienced in everyday life are reflected in online behavior, thereby… limiting the extent to which…various backgrounds…may interact with people not like them” (Hargittai 243). This helps explain why someone might unfriend others. Similarly, in Donnath and Boyd’s article,  “Public Displays of Connection” they note that, “political beliefs…may be inferred from the company one keeps” (Donnah and Boyd 2). Public displays of connections reflect ourselves and whom we want to be perceived as (Donnah and Boyd 2). Thus, it may be impulse to unfriend someone who does not reflect similar views but Taylor poses that we should give others a chance and let them speak to preserve democracy.

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