Since Donald J. Trump was elected as President of the United States, we’ve asked ourselves and each other: “If they voted for Trump in 2016 or will in 2020, do you unfriend someone on Facebook?”
If my experience is any indication, it’s not only “yes” but “Hell, yes!”
I posted a link to the most recent post on black support for President Trump onto my Facebook page, and a cascade of comments followed. I lost count at around 150.
The waterfall of venom started with three female friends, one whom I’ve known since 1983 and the other since 1987. The third I met on Facebook more recently through the latter woman. All three are self-described progressives, and I consider all three to be friends. All three and I have had Facebook dust-ups in the past, but nothing like this. In the past, we were willing to be open to each other’s position. Or, if not, we agreed to disagree. We were, after all, “friends.” Two of them were friends “in real life.”
Like, if we saw each other on the street, we’d actually hang out.
What ensued from my posting that blog article was a comment thread, mostly populated by their ad hominem attacks and interlaced with comments from other friends defending me — including one friend from high school who later became a pro wrestler (we found great comfort and levity in going back and forth on my post) — that resulted in the expected outcome: No common ground.
In all modesty and candor, I tried to find common ground or at least common respect.
It was no use.
Exasperated by my failed attempt to be polite and accommodating, I let loose a screed of my own that was an ad hominem attack par excellence. Soon after, fatigued by responding to comments, and finding I needed to eat and sleep and — oh, yeah — work, I deleted the whole Facebook post. The back-and-forth was fruitless and time-consuming. I had fallen prey to what many of us do: having a debate online instead of doing so over a meal where we see the other’s non-verbals and at the end shake hands/hug (screw COVID) and smile, wishing each other well until next we meet.
After deleting the post, one of the three women, the one I’d known since college, wrote me this note on Facebook messenger:
Interesting sidenote (see her grammatical mistake above):
If you type in “unfriend,” auto-correct tends to recreate it as “I friend.” Perhaps Facebook wants us all to just get along after all.
I don’t really believe that. (That Facebook wants us to get along.) I think Facebook’s advertisers are making out like bandits the longer our political threads get and the more heated they become. We are not the customers for Facebook and Twitter. We are the customers of those platforms’ advertisers.
Why do people unfriend others over their support of Trump? The most frequent reason is Trump opponents’ belief that the president is not only sympathetic but supportive of white supremacists.
With many of us wondering how many times a leader has to repeat him- or herself, here’s a montage with Trump denounced/disavowed/distanced himself from white supremacists multiple times over recent years:
Here’s another, more detailed and contextualized article by FactCheck.org — which has also repeatedly criticized President Trump for exaggeration and lies — showing his full statement about hate groups and the KKK, which people including Biden have misquoted or truncated to make their case.
Racism at least is one of the more recent reasons to unfriend someone. That’s because this VOX article from six years ago presented a graph that is now most certainly out of date:
My prediction is that on November 4th — since I’ve heard from numerous people that either “Biden seems in prime shape” or “Biden is our man” or “this country needs you, Mr. Vice President,” all of which are pointing to the same confidence in Biden’s ability to lead as these voters had in Hillary Clinton’s certainty of winning in 2016 — Trump will be re-elected. Either then or after a Supreme Court ruling.
When this happens, we will see a massive unfriending.
“Sexist” and “Racist” reasons will dovetail with “Political” ones, and we might have a new #1 category for unfriending: “Trump voter.”
I would be sad for a moment.
And then I will be glad to have a shorter Facebook feed to get through each morning.