Removing the toxicity from my Facebook

I feel I am fighting and winning a battle for the soul of my own Facebook. This might sound a tad overly dramatic but hear me out. For a long time, I have felt a little subdued by the possible reaction of ‘friends’ who come from a diverse range of opinions and backgrounds. I have tended to be more neutral than I feel in order not to generate their ire. I don’t like ire. I grew up with ire. Ire makes me uncomfortable. Then came Brexit and I finally lost my reserve with (some) people whose actions have damaged my dreams, but who did not seem able to just leave me be. That wasn’t nice. I didn’t like that. I wrote a blog about my feelings on Brexit, about my sadness. I was grieving. It was the first time anything I wrote ever went viral. I have had nearly 50,000 hits. Some of the comments were vile. I learned to not care and just delete them. Their views do not matter to me. I do not give a rat’s arse about them. What offended me is why someone would choose to put the boot in when someone is in pain and sharing their loss. In the days before and after the vote several people decided they would challenge me on my posts. That is fine, I suppose, a bit irritating perhaps but nothing major. But it escalated, it made me uncomfortable, a line was crossed between good friends discussing thorny issues respectfully, and strangers booing my views, and I decided that my friendships with them were not important enough to continue holding back my self expression. I lost about five friends with whom I had interacted for a long time, at times face to face. But with each one that I lost, I felt a growing sense of relief. It was one less troublesome, mismatched, incompatible heckler to worry about, one less person of a different worldview to accommodate. Twitter, I suppose, is for mass contacts and Linkedin is for work and networking, and Facebook is for supportive friendship and a feeling of gentle warmth, not the cutting, terse comments of virtual strangers. I got a taste for it, for the cull. Unspoken conventions went out the window. “You cannot delete him, you were at school together,” I thought as an old classmate returned from the mists of neglected friendship to shoot down a value that was dear to me. “She has some of your artwork and might buy more,” I chided myself, biting my tongue after a one word put down on my post. “She’s entitled to her views,” my liberal always compliant voice whispered, urging me to turn a blind eye to a ghastly Britain First photo shared. Then as the first friendships fell I learned to quickly move on, the sharp tug of pain being no worse than plucking an eyebrow. Because they never really were friendships. Because friendships are based on solid, shared values. They are based on giving each other privacy to post without constant chiding and arguing. With a bank of 1500 friends I am aware that each post risks an argument, with embarrassment and adrenaline and anger. So the choices are to not share posts and opinions that matter to me, or to accept that people use my posts as a platform for their views that are offensive to me, or possibly to be much more choosy about who I am friends with. Some people love a good argument, with views flying around like feathers in a pillow fight. When the argument is about things close to my heart I do not like this. It hurts me, shocks me, depresses me. I feel threatened and I feel betrayed. There are things that are more important to me than the approval of a stranger. My connection to my identity, to my people. In a democratic country all views can be aired. But that does not mean I need to be friends with them, to give them a platform or have them in my life if, and this is an important if, if they are at odds with my identity, my sexual orientation, my faith, with the freedom I have cherished and which is now at stake. If you want to be my friend, and if we are odds, leave me be, and I will return the courtesy. Prod me and we might need to part, for I want my Facebook back, my place to voice my opinions and views and values in a safe, supportive environment. @artistofhull


6 comments on “Removing the toxicity from my Facebook

  1. I agree; the recent Brexit stuff has caused me to delete a few folks who started to ‘Play the man, not the ball”. I don’t mind reasoned debate but when there’s personal attacks (and CAPITALS, shudder) I draw the line. I was a bit worried about ending up in an echo chamber with only people with exactly the same views as me; without being challenged you may end up with Facebook being on line valium?

    If in doubt I fall back on the family motto: “Fuck ’em”. Works for me.

  2. Absolutely. I did a big cull on Facebook about 8 months ago when i figured out I was holding on to some people for no reason. Gone, my life is unchanged. It seems most of the cullees didn’t even notice. I have lost nothing because there was, in reality, nothing there to lose.

  3. I feel the same way, albeit on different issues. Thank you for writing this it has let me know I am not a weakling but a person with true feelings which is really much more desirable after all.

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