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Flash Fiction

Plovember 20: What ‘Unfriend’ Means

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Twelve.

It’s been 12 days since one of the strangest things happened in my adult life.

My love of unusual stories began when I was very young — I built blanket and chair forts in the living room, from which I watched The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Night Gallery, One Step Beyond, The Late Show, and of course, The Late Late Show. However, I never expected that I would wake up one day to find myself living inside one of these speculative fiction tales.

 

But then it was Election Day 2016.

Since that time, I’ve watched social media explode with volleys of hurtful posts in which the lack of attempts to understand the spaces in which people exist is appalling. If you’ve never experienced racism or marginalization, good for you.

I have.

People I know and love have.

And those experiences are just as real as yours.

Yet and still, it amazes me that those of us who have seen some of the worst this nation has to offer are still told to ‘suck it up’, ‘stop whining’, ‘quit crying’, and accept the outcome of the speaking of ‘the people.’

Really?

Whenever the candidate from the party those persons did not want got into office, they cried ‘foul’, but we aren’t supposed to.

Yeah, really.

In this day of instant communication, sites like Facebook offer its members the illusion of friendship: press a key and voila! you’re someone’s friend. Press another key and boom! you can share a witty bit of life from your new friend.

As an aside, it sort of creeps me out when some of my posts get shared. Maybe for that reason, I shouldn’t use social media. I mean, the people who are my friends probably already saw the 1,247th photo of my dog sleeping upside down or the meme I made o myself looking like a wreck after cleaning my house.

And therein lies the focus of this post, since I know you were wondering when I would get to the point.

Most of those folks aren’t your friends.

Let that soak in before you complain, okay?

Check it out: how many of the people whose images appear on that sidebar have you actually met or talked to? Sure, in this internet age, we can be friends at a distance. But when friends of friends of friends press that key and add you to their harem, you don’t know them and they don’t know you.

Yet, to press the ‘unfriend’ button seems like the end of the world as we know it, even when we don’t actually know who’s on the other side of the screen.

Case in point:

People are being unfollowed and unfriended left and right after this election. Myself included. The reason for this is that one person or the other just can’t get down with how their ‘friend’ feels about the president-elect. Or feels that their ‘friend’ is wrong to suggest that racism is real. Or is angry that their ‘friend’ has, as the adage goes, shared a news story, photo, or somesuch that shines a big ol’ spotlight on some of the ills suffered by various non-majority populations.

I work in higher education and strive to engage my student colleagues in critical discourse. I do this even when the topic of the class is far removed from issues of race, culture, or ethnicity because critical thinking is something of a lost art these days. I have had a few verbal sparring matches about my lived experience and why I am not pleased about the election, only to pop back in later in the day to read the comments — most recently, I saw that a lively discussion had ensued on one particular shared post and as I scrolled through the various comments, I saw one ‘friend’ had disparaged two other ‘friends’. The disparagement was offensive.

I pressed the ‘unfriend’ button.

I do not do so lightly and this was the first time I have used it. I still believe that each post is an opportunity to open someone’s eyes.

In this case, someone I’d never talked to was putting down two people I know. Like in real life. As in, I’ve looked them in the face. We’ve been on the same side of the computer screen together. My peeps.

Despite my feelings and desires to open the minds of others, I will drop that crap like a hot piece of … well, crap … if my actual friends are attacked. That’s not very social and I’ll not allow those I know and care for to be talked to (written to?) in an offensive way on my thread.

I can care about people I don’t know: it’s called compassion. But I’ll get over that feeling in a hot second, too.

And there you have it.

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4 Comments

  1. Lyn November 20, 2016 6:31 pm

    On FB I have 66 friends. Thirty-three I know personally either because they are family, or through church, or long-term friendships. The remaining 33 are writing friends of writing friends or blogging friends. I have six friend requests from friends of writing friends or writing friends’ writing friends (does that make sense?) I’ve never heard of them and just because they write, doesn’t mean I have to embrace them as bosom buddies. I’ve not unfriended anyone yet, but I have deleted a few posts that contain language that offends me. Some of my friends have almost 4,000 friends. That does my head in.
    LOL oh and speaking of FB friends, I just sent you a friend request. No pressure mind you πŸ˜€

    • AR Neal November 21, 2016 8:07 am

      Well, I occasionally offend with my posts, which is why this one happened. Hopefully though, you’ll allow me a bit of latitude πŸ™‚

      • Lyn November 22, 2016 2:19 am

        Latitude or longitude is fine by me πŸ˜‰
        I may not understand some of your stands, but I’ll never dis you.

        • AR Neal November 22, 2016 9:25 am

          <3

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