I’ve been open about unfriending more than a dozen social media contacts last year (several of whom were real-life family/friends). As is natural for me, I’ve second-guessed that decision many times. I wonder repeatedly whether I should have remained “friends” with them online and challenged their posts — “call them out”, so to speak.
None of the issues were things I consider “political”; all were stances on very fundamental things like women’s rights, civil rights in general, freedom of speech/expression, whether sexual assault is okay, or whether we should favor environmental protections over obscene profits.
Months after all of that, I got a friend request from an extended family member who I knew as a child but haven’t had much contact with since then. I had no idea what I was in for.
Most of this person’s posts were about a personal hobby — something in which I take zero interest — so I simply scrolled past them (as I would expect them to do with personal hobby posts of mine). After a few days, a few pro-Trump memes popped up. Again, I just scrolled — everyone is entitled to his or her political stances, I told myself. I won’t assume what this person is thinking, or why they might support a political figure that I’m personally against. In hindsight, I wonder whether I should have asked which particular things about Trump were worth supporting.
But then this meme (pictured at top right) showed up on my timeline, casting women in general as sex objects and black women in particular as a specific category of sex object, and belittling them all with the moniker “girls”.
Again, in hindsight, I wonder whether I should have challenged it, or at least asked a poignant question. In fairness to myself, I wondered that at the time, too, but could not answer “yes” to my own question: “Will it be worth my time and effort to entertain the possibility that there was a good reason for posting this?”
Using my innate conflict-avoidance tendency as a guide, I clicked “unfriend” and walked away.
For more than a week, I’ve pondered my hastiness, to the point of overthinking. It hasn’t helped, by the way (does it ever?)
I welcome your thoughts and opinions. What do you do when your family members say racist or sexist bullshit, whether in person or online? (I think if it had been in person, I would have spoken up, depending on circumstances, but one can never be sure.) Do you challenge them? Do you walk away? Do you ignore it?
One other option that someone here is sure to mention — and which I am once again considering — is exiting social media altogether. Most of you know that I left Facebook in 2010, and only returned in 2014 because I was missing out on neighborhood communications through its closed Facebook group.
However, I’m reluctant to leave again, because the majority of people I follow don’t do this (because I actively weed out the ones who do). Also, leaving Facebook doesn’t end my relationship with family members.