During the 2004, 2008, and 2012 Presidential election seasons (elections that overlapped with this blog) I wrote several times about the importance of civil disagreement and how you can still love people who vote differently than you. I never once unfollowed anyone anywhere who voted differently than I did and I maintained relationships across political divides. It was very important to me to to talk the talk AND walk the walk about not letting politics dictate who I allow to have a part in my life.
And I still believe that just because people vote differently from me, doesn’t mean I should close myself off from them. I still keep relationships with a lot of people who voted for Trump and while people in Blue States and Blue Families think that is LUDICROUS, when you are a red dot in a red state surrounded by red family? It’s just everyday life.
But the 2016 election changed the way I have to manage my life online in order to keep from separating myself from people who vote differently than I do. I started unfollowing people on Facebook.
Now, it wasn’t just blindly UNFOLLOW EVERYONE WHO VOTED FOR TRUMP! No, of course not. I unfollowed people who posted support for Trump AND who never really engage in anything I do on Facebook. I don’t want to unfollow people if we have some sort of nice Facebook friendship, you know? If we like each other’s posts or comment on each other’s pictures then I figure we can keep things up without dealing with politics. But if you post your love of him and never interact with what I do, then I figure unfollowing you just saves me the anxiety I feel every time I see your Pro-Trump stuff on Facebook.
I didn’t unfriend them, because to me that’s antagonistic and if they’ve never done anything to start fights with me, there’s not point.
Now…once some local guy who never interacted with me on Facebook and who I had therefore unfollowed, started a fight with me about something political so I called him out by saying something like, “I have no problem with civil debate on Facebook but I save that energy for people who actually engage with me in ways OTHER than political debates. If you’re only going to come out of the woodwork to start political fights with me then there is no point in us being Facebook friends.” And I unfriended him.
Here’s the thing. I HAD TOTALLY FORGOTTEN HE AND I WERE FACEBOOK FRIENDS! Because I had unfollowed him during the post-Trump mental health purge. I mean, if you don’t like my photos or comment on my statuses and you use YOUR Facebook page to support a man who I despise, then OF COURSE I AM NOT GOING TO FOLLOW YOU.
But until that day? I just assumed those people unfollowed me too.
Every once in awhile those days happen. People who I had unfollowed pop out to angrily comment on something I post politically and as a sensitive empath it always haunts me for DAYS. I mean, I found out someone I loved blocked me one time on Facebook one time and had to make an emergency therapy session to cope with it. I know there are a lot of people who can be dismissive…”FUCK THEM! BAH!” but I can not.
Now, if you’re some sort of random person who we’ve connected over because we ran the same marathon? Or because our kids once played volleyball together? Eh. F*ck you. Your voice is not keeping me up at night.
If we’re casual friends though – who might see each other regularly, or if we’re related, then I really struggle because I feel like we’ve reached an agreement where I overlook your support of Trump you overlook my very political posts on Facebook. I don’t post “funny” anti-Trump memes. I actually rarely post things that attack him at all. I mostly post about issues and policy more than people. If you come out suddenly then to disagree with me, I tend to be blown away because I assumed at this point people just either A) tolerate my politics or B) have unfollowed me because RARELY does anyone post arguments with me anymore.
This happened a few times in the last few days over my posts and IT IS REALLY GOOD THAT I HAVE A THERAPY APPOINTMENT TODAY. I just don’t know how to respond to people who I love in some way, but who challenge my politics in a way that does not say, “friendly debate” but instead is fueled with hurt and anger and that’s what I saw and so I found myself in this tricky position where I don’t want people debating things with hurt and anger – especially if they don’t know each other because why keep it civil then? But I also don’t want to appear wishy-washy in my views.
In the end I decided to take down a photo where a comment was left and just post a general, “I LOVE YOU ALL!” type of post which probably makes my friends in Blue States cringe and say, “YOU ARE THE PROBLEM.”
Just know this – navigating social media as a outspoken liberal in a red state with a lot of conservative family is very trying sometimes and if you never have to navigate those minefields then you are lucky, but please allow those of us in the trenches whatever coping skills we need.